Fall soup, anytime soup, hearty soup, lunch soup, soup, soup! That is what I was craving this week. After a summer without it and a September without, we finally had some rainy days (rain is generally welcomed in California because we can be prone to drought) that warranted a nice pot of awesome soup. I like to multi-task my soups knowing they will be served for a dinner main course and multiple lunches or snacks. This soup was an experiment that went wonderfully well, the pièce de résistance ended up being small chunks of green apple thrown in after the soup was essentially done. It was almost like a garnish but I stirred them in and let them sit stewing in the hot soup, flame off, for a few minutes before serving.
I’ve been dying to get my dried beans right and make the case for using dried rather than canned for soups and other things. I’m not sure I’m there yet with the easier to find canned beans like cannelini and black beans. There are some other soups I will do this winter that require beans I can only find dried. So now I am split, dried for rare beans and canned for common beans. For this particular soup I used 2 1/2 cups (1 lb.) dried beans rinsed and soaked overnight in 10 cups cold water, so this recipe will start with cooking time for soaked beans. I will also add some alternate instructions for canned beans.
Now, just to say a word about a few of the other ingredients. I was lucky enough to have a huge ripe yellow heirloom tomato, 4 large fronds of chard and some tender beet greens to add to the mix. This thickened and added dimension to the bean soup, it also brought it over to the more bitter side. I wanted the flavors to be whole and complex – slurpable. I remedied this by adding a bit of Agave syrup and the green apple. It brought sweet/tartness and crunch. Absolutely, slurpable.
White Bean + Green Apple Soup
1 lb. dry organic cannelini beans
6 cups water
1 large yellow heirloom tomato (I realize this may be hard to get, 1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes drained and rinsed will probably work nicely as an alternative.)
4 large fronds of green or red chard
1 cup tender beet greens
1 small/medium tart green apple like Granny Smith
1/2 cup shredded parmesan (I did half pecorino, half parm but I think full parm is better)
1 tblsp. smoked salt
1 1/2 tblsp. No Chicken Base
1 tbsp. light Agave nectar
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tblsp. olive oil
If you are starting as I did, with dried beans, this is a project recipe that will begin the night before or morning of cooking. I prefer overnight soak to quick soak. Rinse and sort your beans then add them to 10 cups of water and let soak overnight or at least for 6 -8 hours. I put my beans in the water the night before I know I’m going to use them. When you beans are soaked, rinse them and sort out any other marred beans. Add 6 cups of water and the beans to your soup pot, don’t bring to a boil, just simmer for at least and hour so they get nice and tender. Leave the lid tilted to let some steam escape and add extra water if needed to keep beans covered. Prep your other ingredients while your beans are cooking. Chop your chard, chop your tomatoes, pick out the tenderest of beet greens and halve them. Chop your apple, skin on, into small, garnish like chunks. Mince your garlic and saute it in hot olive oil. Once you have a nice pot of cooked through beans, add your No Chicken Base. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. I used my handy immersion blender now to puree the beans. Add your tomatoes and greens. Scrape in the oil and garlic. Bring to a boil. Turn back down to a simmer, add the agave syrup and smoked salt. Stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add your parmesan, stir, add your apple chunks saving a few for the tippy top as garnish. Serve. This soup is also great the next day. If you want to let it stew and ripen for service the next day, don’t worry about adding your apple, just do it, let the pot cool and refrigerate. Heat up the amount you will serve the next day. This soup will keep. Crispy crostinis complement this soup and make a complete meal.