Friday, January 28, 2011

W&W "Sixteen Bean Soup"

Four days ago I found myself bent over the trash can peeling carrots. I hadn't peeled carrots in about 5 years. The last time was when I made a carrot cake from scratch for my friend Matt's birthday. He didn't believe I had actually peeled and grated carrots and made the cake. It turned out fantastic if I do say so myself.

These carrots were for homemade soup. I chose the three best carrots and the three best celery stalks from their respective bags. Let the chopping and dicing begin. After peeling the dirty skin from the carrots I diced them per the recipe I had chosen. I then washed and chopped the celery stalks. Moving on the onion, I peeled the outer skin from the onion and diced it. I was staring at a bowl full of color and freshness - orange carrots, green celery, purple onion. This soup would be nothing if not colorful.

Continuing with the slicing and dicing, I peeled and sliced 3 cloves of fresh garlic. Not only was my bowl of fresh veggies colorful, it now filled the room with the pungent smell of garlic. Mmmm!

The only thing left to do really was open the two cans of diced tomatoes. I contemplated the diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano added, but ultimately chose plain-diced tomatoes. It felt like overkill considering the recipe called for garlic and oregano already. I showed a little restraint.

The crock-pot was ready and the time had come for placing all these colorful, fresh, aromatic ingredients into it and letting it magically turn them into dinner.

I had been soaking the blend of 16 beans overnight. I drained and rinsed them in the colander before placing them in the crock-pot. Let the color parade begin. Mostly it was just beans in their brown, black and white shades, but the lentils were green; light green. Loved it! I added the fresh carrots, celery, onion and garlic. I poured in a 32 oz. container of vegetable stock. I chose the Kitchen Basics brand, unsalted. The recipe I used called for chicken stock, but as one of my guests was vegetarian I needed to use the vegetable stock. Seems to me one could use vegetable, chicken or beef stock. It's a matter of personal preference. I then poured the two cans of diced tomatoes in their juice into the soup mixture. The recipe suggests adding water should you need more liquid to cover everything. That wasn't necessary. With the 32 oz. of vegetable stock and the juice from two cans of tomatoes, everything was more than covered. I threw in 3 bay leaves and sprinkled the top with Goya Sazonador complete seasoning. I gave it a quick stir, secured the lid and set the dial to low.

All that's left is to wait.

Let's review:

1 package 16 Bean Soup
3 stalks celery chopped
3 carrots diced
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic sliced
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 tsp. ground oregano
3 bay leaves
1 32 oz. container of stock

My recipe called for cooking the beans, bay leaves, oregano and stock on high for 3-4 hours then adding everything else and cooking on high for another 3-4 hours. As I was going to MoMA in the afternoon I couldn't be at home to follow the hourly breakdown set forth by the recipe. Isn’t crock-pot cooking supposed to be fill it and leave it? I called my mom and talked to her about it. My thought was: Can't I just put all of it in the crock-pot at the same time and cook it on low for 8-9 hours? Mom thought that would be fine. That's how I proceeded.

Returning from MoMA, my apartment smelled amazing. The soup had been cooking for at least 7 hours at that point. One of my dinner guests wasn't going to arrive until 8pm so I was going to continue letting it cook for another 2 hours. I was dying to taste it and check the tenderness of the beans. My heart sank briefly when I discovered that the beans were not as tender as they should be. My first thought was that we would eat the appetizers for dinner if the beans were not fully cooked by the time we were ready to eat. I turned the crock-pot on high while Anna and I retired to the living for a little bagel snack and conversation.

If you're reading these entries in order, this is the point where I made the olive tapenade.

Brandon had a meeting after our trip to MoMA; a meeting he thought would last no longer than 30 minutes. It lasted almost an hour and a half. Anna and I waited as long as we could before I opened the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc I had chosen specifically for the olive tapenade. I had one bottle. One bottle seemed logical as it was for the appetizer course.

I'm going to jump past the appetizers now and tell you that no matter how put out or annoyed Anna and I were that Brandon took longer than he thought, I'm glad he took longer. The beans cooked on high for more than 2 additional hours. They needed it. It was just enough to push them into the tender end zone.

I had shredded cheddar cheese for anyone who might want it on top of his soup. It was hearty and filling and perfect for a cold winter night.

I searched for two days to find a wine pairing for this soup. Turns out people don't really pair wine with soup. I'm not exactly sure why. We had Pinot Noir. I had multiple bottles of that. There were no complaints from my guests. Who says one can't serve their favorite red or white with soup? Hindsight: beer might have been a better choice. Next time.