Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bean Soup for One

I know we can buy bean soup in cans. But I am still championing the old fashioned way to make soup. When I make bean soup, it has no artificial or exotic ingredients. Everything is real, inexpensive and easy to find in the grocery store. It’s perfect for retirees who like to stay home all afternoon. It’s easy to make and it tastes good.

This soup has another characteristic. It’s just enough for one person rather than an army. Your big fat cookbook is likely to start you out with a pound bag of beans and at least six cups of water. It assumes you are feeding a hungry family. It also assumes that you can find your large kettle. My challenge was to create just enough for me and none for my freezer.

I love the way the cookbook authors extol soup making. They paint word pictures about soup. For example, The Blue Plate Diner Cookbook, by Tim Lloyd and James Novak (Prairie Oak Press, 1999), says: “Soup is good food….In the process of making soup, you will fill your home with fantastic aromas. You will be using mostly fresh ingredients, eliminating most chemicals and preservatives.” Monte’s Blue Plate Diner serves good soup, including navy bean soup. Of course, it says to use a six quart pot. Joy of Cooking, revised edition, 1997, talks about soup (without a recipe for bean soup): “If any food seems inherently calming, and even consoling, it is soup. Soup feels good when the weather gets cold. It restores our spirit and our vigor.” Recipes from the Farmer’s Daughters’ Restaurant, located in Door County if it still exists, glows: “Year round, soup is a winner. You will be greatly rewarded if you jump on the soup wagon. It is amazingly uncomplicated and you will be delighted at how quickly a delicious homemade soup can appear on your table and how rapidly it will disappear.” Then, of course, the book continues with the instruction to find a soup kettle that holds ten to twelve quarts. The book’s recipe for navy bean soup starts with six cups of dried navy beans. Ok, it is a restaurant, so it gives restaurant quantities.

When I am cooking for one, I am fending for myself. Even the library isn’t very helpful. I decided to try to make one bowl of soup, and I succeeded. Here it is.

Bean Soup For One

1/3 cup dried beans, such as navy beans or great northern beans
1 ½ cups water.

Place beans and water in a 1 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Add a small amount of water if it cooks dry. Crush beans slightly with a fork or potato masher. Then add:

About 1 cup chopped or finely diced onion, celery, carrot
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (real, not artificially flavored syrup)
1 slice bacon, cut into small pieces (don't cook it first)(yes, it is fatty)(or use ham)(or whatever)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook it for ½ to 1 hour more. Continue to add water as needed.
I ate it with slices of Swiss cheese and celery sticks, and that was a meal.

Note: I don’t soak the dry beans for hours before using them. If you think you should, it’s ok with me.

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