This afternoon at work, I was absolutely dreading the inevitable question, "So what are you doing tonight?"
Frankly, I lied. "Oh, you know, getting some wine with friends, staying out late, maybe some tabletop dancing at the hottest new club."
The truth? All day, I thought about coming home to my Crockpot full of vegan bean soup - the soup I so boldly referred to as a "project" in the title of this post. I settled on Project both for the air of importance it bestowed upon what turned out to be a magnificent soup, but also because it was a meal that required two completely separate cooking sessions.
I was inspired by my new, oft-name-dropped cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. Heidi Swanson's vegetable broth was too intriguing to pass up. (Yes, I find vegetable broth recipes intriguing - do you now see why I feel compelled to lie about my weekend activities?) I shy away from veggie broth at the store, mostly because I find chicken broth so delicious and versatile, but also because I'm just dubious about the ingredients. Processed soup in general, is sort of sketchy - it's always a total sodium party, with who-knows-how-old veggies...and don't even get me started on the type of MEAT you find in those canned soup jobbies.
Heidi's vegetable broth required simple, inexpensive ingredients, only an hour of my time, and I felt really good about building a soup from the bottom up. Liquid karma! (Making chicken broth, on the other hand - I'll file that away under "Someday.") I had also recently seen a bean mix at Trader Joe's that caught my attention - 17 Bean Mix! Seventeen beans! I am 110% positive that if I were forced at gunpoint to name 17 different varities of legumes, I would end up with a fatal bullet wound.
Buying dried beans is somewhat of a new culinary horizon for me, so the plethora of beans in their mix seemed like an easy way to acquaint myself with, well...all of them.
I made the broth while I was cooking dinner, so I only dirtied the kitchen once (since the soup simmered all day in the Crockpot) - it turned out to be well worth the effort.
The goat cheese was a last-minute (obviously non-vegan) addition, but it added to the already creamy beans, and picked up on the lemon juice in the broth. Of course, if you are an actual vegan, this is an ingredient you'll skip. If you are a dairy-phile like me, you could also serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt. Grated parmesan would also be yummy.
VEGAN BEAN SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE
(Reprinted here from Heidi Swanson's recipe; my personal additions have asterisks.)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, cut into eighths
2 shallots, quartered
1 garlic clove, smashed*
2 celery stalks, chopped
a few springs thyme*
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 quarts water
*I didn't have thyme. Instead, I used a little parsley, sage, dill, and rosemary.
*I added 1 large chopped carrot.
*I think I used 2 cloves.
*I added some fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of my favorite organic all-purpose salt-free seasoning.
NOTE: Because I once saw Ina Garten do this on TV, I left all the peels on my onions, garlic, and shallots. It all adds to the flavor of the broth. I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you're buying organic ingredients, because of pesticides, etc.
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, celery, and thyme. Saute 5 minutes and add the salt and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Strain and use in soups, risottos, and sauces. Makes 2 quarts.
2 quarts homemade vegetable broth
1 bag 17-bean mix (or other dry bean blend)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into small pieces
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
herbed goat cheese (optional)
The night before you want to make the soup, make the broth and store in an airtight container. Also, soak the dry beans overnight in enough water to cover the beans by a few inches. The beans will soak up a lot of the water.
In the morning, drain the beans. Add the beans, broth, carrot, and celery to the Crockpot. Cook on low all day. When you get home, add the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve with a chunk of goat cheese on top. Enjoy!
I know that making your own broth may sound a little over the top, but this soup came out so yummy that I think it's worth the minimal effort. A little chopping and some patience while it simmers, and bam - an excellent, non-creepy broth for what I imagine to be an endless variety of uses. This recipe is so simple, I can imagine just making batches of it weekly so that I always have it on hand. There are some things that just need chicken broth, but I'm really excited to experiment with vegetable broth in all my favorite brothy things.
The beans were so creamy and hearty, and their beany goodness just permeated the broth as it cooked. This meal is hands-down one of the most healthful things I've made - and completely craveable.
Thanks for reading! More soon...