Vegetarian bean soup?
I have just been given a large container of a mixture of 13 dried beans including navy, great northern, black-eyed peas, pintos, lentils, peas, etc. The only directions are to "soak overnight and then cook for 2-3 hours until tender. I would love to make a hearty bean soup, but haven't a clue how to approach it. Can anyone help??
I have been wondering about mixed bean soups lately as well. The dry mixes are always so pretty! Haven't tried it yet, but I can comment on other bean soups and I am sure the same ideas would apply.
Try tomatoes, zuchini, parsnips, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, as you see fit. I would skip broccoli in any soup besides cream of broccoli soup because I find it overwhelming, but besides that there are lots of choices and any combo would be good.
Season with a bay leaves and your choices of thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, etc... I am really a "pinch of this and a pinch of that" kind of cook when it comes to these sort of dishes. I like everything spicy so I add chipotle puree. Smoked paprika is also wonderful. If a dish like this has enough tomato and spice I like to top it with a spoonful of yogurt.
I salt towards the end with beans, but I have been trying to be brave enough to break this habit. :)
Generally, I get out a large pan or pot, spread the beans out on it, and pick through the dry beans first, to throw out any sticks, little balls of dirt, bad beans (modern beans seem to require this less and less). Then I place the beans in the pot I will use (one pound of beans cooks well in, oh, 5 quarts of pot) and add some water and swish it around to rinse them. Then drain it out, holding the beans in with your hand. Repeat a few times if the water is dirty. Now cover the beans with cool water, maybe like 2 inches over to top of the beans. Let it sit somewhere overnight at regular room temperature.
Either drain out the water or not, as you choose. Cover with water about two inches over the beans. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. If they foam at the start, you can skim it, like stock. Simmer until done. Add water to the pot if it gets low. Keep them under water so they can move and aren't jammed together. They are done when the larger beans are tender/smooth/creamy to the core, and don't have a crunchy center to them. This can take hours. The smaller beans will dissolve or fall apart in that time, flavoring the water. Be sure to taste test several types of beans, in case one variety in the mix is being stubborn. Check for the first time at the hour mark to gauge how long they are going to take.
This is the basic idea. But you will want to add at least salt and probably several other seasonings. Typical is to add a smoked ham hock, which is often simmered in water before the beans and then the beans are added, but vegetarians would omit this. Other common items are onions, bay leaf, celery, parsley, thyme, garlic, or whatever strikes you for your soup. You can read many arguments at length about when to add the salt. I try to have some salt in from the beginning of the cooking. Then I add more later. If you like, you can saute your veggies in olive oil before adding to the pot. There are lots of little differences in how you can cook these.
If you have a pressure cooker they can take a lot less time than that. We generally use beans separately (one kind of bean at a time). Tomatoes and a variety of veggies (broccoli, zucchini, greens, for example) go with nearly any kind of bean. Some people slice up some carrots to go in bean soup. Remember to throw away the soak water and cook the beans with fresh water.
Ditto to throwing away/watering plants or something with the soaking water... "beans, beans, the musical..." you get the idea :)
I've never made a bean soup with quite so many varieties all at once but I'm sure you could make a mirepoix with diced onion, carrots and celery, add stock of your choice then once the beans are soaked, drained and rinsed add them to the pot, cook and season how you see fit.
epicurious.com has a ton of bean soup recipes btw :)