Thursday, January 6, 2011

Soup, Soup, I Need Soup - the Senate Kind

Winter really takes it out of me.  Since Thanksgiving, I've been dancing with every virus and bacteria out there that can make your life miserable.  Sick of being sick -- that's what I am.  Flu shot be dammed.  I've spent so much time in bed my memory foam mattress has lost it's memory.  There's a permanent hollow shaped just like me in the spot where I recline.

One thing I've had time to do while recuperating is dream of spring and shop for spring seeds.  I been scanning catalogs like some drunkard that just received the keys to the wine cellar.  I look at online catalogs.  I happily click away; click and click and click.  Then I discover, my eyes are much bigger than my wallet, or my garden space.  Its a sad thing when I have to cull the herd because I don't have room to grow them all.

Beautiful but I'm tired of winter already.
Dave and I plan to build a few more no-till garden beds.  Last year's experiment in no-till gardening was more than a success.  It was a downright triumph. So we will buy our alfalfa and stray and build two more beds this spring.  I'm also planning on putting up a small greenhouse. But even with the additional space, there's not enough room for all the seeds I've clicked into my shopping carts. So cull away I must do. It's a bummer.

Wash and soak your beans
A greenhouse is something I'm really excited about!  For years, I've lusted after other people's glass enclosed garden rooms and greenhouses, from afar.  I long to bask in the radiant glow of the sun's winter rays, basking like a golden loaf of bread in the sunshine while my plants grow happily about me.  Therefore, I have, quite recently, decided that I should stop drooling and just build one. So I am.  I've saved my money and I'm plunking it down for 48 square feet of sunshine in a jar.  I'm gonna grow my own Meyer lemon tree!
Cover with three inches of water...

 I'm fascinated by all the beautiful photos of exotic (at least to a mid-westerner such as myself) varieties of vegetables.  White cucumbers, long red and pink french radishes, tiny little pie pumpkins that grow no larger than your fist, long purple snap beans, beautiful ruby red and purple carrots and pink and gold beets. These are the things that lure me to the add to cart  buttons on the order forms. It's killing me, but no way do I have the room.  So I will concentrate on a few exotics and more of the good old standbys, many from whom I saved seeds from last years crop, like top crop beans, and my sad but delicious Cherokee red, pineapple, San Marzano, and Gold Green reen heirloom tomatoes.

Add chopped carrots, chopped onions, chopped potatoes, bay leaves, salt, and pepper...

I've got my mini greenhouses and heat mats ready to go.  I've still to build a light stand for my grow lights, but that will have to wait until I stop coughing. Once I have the seeds and the energy to get the job started I'll be all set.

But, in order to be in shape for all this seed starting I've just got to get over this latest virus that is wrecking havoc with my plans.  So, I need soup.  Soothing, hot, savory soup that will coat my sore throat and warm me to the core.  Ever notice that when you eat soup, you start to perspire?  Inside out, that's the ticket.  Inside out...

Ready to cook until tender.

So I've made Senate Bean Soup.  This bean, carrot, and potato concoction was my mother's favorite bean soup.  She brought the recipe home following her WWII stint as an employee of the FBI.  She had fond memories of her time at The Bureau.  It had to be a pretty exciting time to live and work in DC.  She said this soup was all the rage.   Memories of exciting times and a great savory soup for a cold winter's day.

Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate (this is a vegetarian flavoring)
I don't believe my mother ever had the opportunity to eat this in the Senate dining room, where they still serve their version of this soup every week.  I'm not exactly sure where she first acquired the recipe but I'm glad she did!
When beans are tender, remove 2 cups of broth and place in saucepan.

There are many variations of this recipe. Some are a little thin on flavor.  But my mother's version was by far the best I've ever tasted.  I must admit I've tweaked the recipe a bit to make it my own -- mostly the stock reduction trick which makes gives the soup a rich and savory distinction.  Therefore, today I offer you my version of Irene's Senate Bean Soup. You can use any white bean you prefer.  I like great northern but navy beans are probably more true to the original.  This is also a great crock pot recipe. I've included crock pot directions below the main body of the recipe. This can be made easily into a vegetarian recipe by just using the Goya Concentrated Ham Flavoring which is vegetarian.
Reduce ham hock stock by half and add to beans.

Irene's Senate Bean Soup

Makes six generous main-dish servings  

1 pound great northern or navy beans, picked over, washed, and soaked overnight (see note below)
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic peeled and kept whole
2 carrots diced
2 bay leaves
1 large potato diced
1 tsp kosher salt (I used Morton's which is a little more salty than Diamond)
1 large ham hock
1 packet Goya Concentrated Ham flavoring (optional but it really adds flavor and is vegetarian)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Drain soaking liquid from beans, place in a heavy stock pot and cover beans with three inches of cold water.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, potato, bay leaves salt and a good grinding of pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat  to a simmer -- about medium low. Cook until beans are just tender, approximately one hour.

When beans have become tender, turn off heat and add Goya Ham Seasoning, if using.  Use a ladle to remove about 1-2 cups of bean liquid to a small saucepan to which the ham hock has been added.  You want enough liquid to 3/4 cover the hock. If you need to add a bit of water, do so now. Bring ham hock and bean liquid to a boil and simmer covered for half an hour, removing lid the last 10 minutes of cooking,  simmering until liquid has been reduced by half.  This concentrated bean stock adds a wonderful savory richness to this bean soup.

Remove ham hock from liquid and set it aside. Add remaining ham broth back to bean pot, mashing the beans slightly. Remove meat from ham hock and shred or dice, adding it to beans.  Reheat mixture.

Remove bay leaves and stir in chopped parsley.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

Note:  Quick soaking the beans make this a same day dish.  Pick over and wash beans.  Cover with two inches of water and bring to a boil in a heavy stock pot.  Boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, and set aside, covered,  for two hours, then continue to cook as directed.

Crock Pot Directions:  Place beans and other ingredients except parsley and ham hock into a large crock pot. Add water to cover by three inches. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. When beans are tender, continue cooking as directed for stove top.

Variation:  My mother often served this dish with  leftover mashed potatoes mixed in and heated through.  Definitely a stick to the ribs, cold winter day meal.

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