Healthy goodness to tame winter’s chill
Polar vortex got you down? Tired of shoveling snow? Then come inside and warm up with a nice bowl of homemade soup.
Here at Kitchen Riffs central, we often turn to soup when winter wallops us. Soup makes an easy (and hearty) one-dish meal. And this bean soup is loaded with lots of healthy flavors.
So it’s just the thing to put Old Man Winter in his place.
Recipe: White Bean and Quinoa Soup with Ham
It’s easy to substitute ingredients in this recipe. Lacking white beans? Select another kind. Fresh out of quinoa? Rice or a small-shape pasta works just as well. Don’t have ham (or want to make a vegan dish)? Mushrooms can add terrific umami flavor. Or just leave out this component altogether. More about substitutions in the Notes.
We like to use dried beans when we make this dish, although you could substitute canned if you wish (see Notes). If using dried beans, you’ll need to soak them first (for about an hour if using the quick-soak method; otherwise overnight).
Once they’ve been soaked, the dried beans will take about an hour to cook. Prep time for the other ingredients is 15 minutes or so (you can do the prep work while the beans are cooking).
This recipe makes about 3 quarts. Leftovers freeze well.
- 1½ cups dried white beans (see Notes)
- ~6 cups water, chicken stock, or ham stock (stock is tastier; see Notes)
- ~1 cup chopped onion (approximately 1 large onion; exact quantity not critical)
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic (to taste)
- olive oil (“pure” olive oil—the cheap stuff—is fine; or substitute vegetable oil of your choice)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon Kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (a dozen grinds or so for us)
- 12 to 16 ounces ham
- ~1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ~¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or to taste; may omit if you wish)
- ~¾ cup quinoa (more if you want a quinoa-rich dish, or less if you prefer; we use red quinoa, but white works well too)
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- Quick-soak the dried beans: Pick over the beans to remove any dirt or stones. Place the beans in a large cooking pot or Dutch oven (one that holds 4 quarts or more), and add enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. Then remove the cooking pot from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for an hour (longer is OK). See Notes for alternatives to the quick-soak method.
- When ready to prepare the soup, drain the beans. Place the beans back in the cooking pot, then add about 6 cups of water or stock (you may need to add more later). Bring the beans to a simmer on medium stovetop heat, then reduce the heat so the beans simmer very slowly. Skim off any scum that may rise to the surface. Set a timer for 40 minutes.
- Now prep the remaining ingredients: Peel the onions and cut them into dice of ½ inch or a bit smaller. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely, or cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
- Place a large skillet (preferably nonstick) on medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the olive oil. When the oil has heated (15 seconds or so—it’ll shimmer), add the onions. Season with salt and black pepper (to taste), and sauté the onions for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the ham into dice of about ¼ inch.
- After the onions have been cooking for 5 minutes, add the garlic to the skillet and sauté for a minute. Add the dried thyme and red pepper flakes, cook for 30 seconds or so, then pour the contents of the skillet into the bean pot.
- Add the ham pieces to the bean pot. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- When the timer goes off (see Step 2 above), prepare the quinoa according to package directions (this should take about 15 to 20 minutes). When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the beans. Add more water or stock if necessary, taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning. Test to make sure the beans are fully cooked (they should be, since they’ll have been cooking for about an hour at this point). If they’re not, continue simmering the soup until the beans are soft and tender.
- When beans are cooked, add a cup of frozen peas to the soup. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Instead of quick-soaking the beans (Step 1), you can soak them the night before you make the soup. Just pick over the beans to remove any dirt or stones. Place the beans in a large cooking pot or Dutch oven, then cover them in water by at least 3 inches. Allow the beans to soak overnight. When you’re ready to proceed, continue with Step 2.
- You can make this dish without soaking the beans at all. But the beans will take much longer to cook—so add at least an hour to the cooking time in Step 2.
- Or you could use canned beans. In that case, the beans will need to cook for only half an hour or so.
- We like this dish best with white beans, such as Great Northerns. Navy beans also work well. But you could substitute pinto beans or black beans—or just about any other type of bean that you fancy.
- You can make this dish with plain water, but we like to use ham stock or chicken stock (broth). The quickest and easiest way to make stock is by using soup base—a concentrated paste that’s sold in the soup aisle of your supermarket. Just mix the paste with water (using as much as you need to make the flavor as strong as you wish).
- If you don’t want to use ham in this dish, you can leave it out. Or substitute mushrooms: Clean about a pound of mushrooms and cut them into dice of ½ inch or so. Sauté the mushrooms with olive oil or butter, then add them to the soup pot in Step 8.
- We generally use Kosher salt in our cooking. This is coarser than regular table salt, so it doesn’t seem as “salty” by volume. If you’re using table salt, reduce the amount specified for seasoning the onions (Step 5) by about half.
- You can add more (or less) quinoa than the amount specified in the recipe. Or substitute rice. Or use a small pasta like ditalini, acini di pepe, orzo, or something similar.
- Frozen peas are generally high quality, and they’re one of our freezer staples. But if fresh green peas are available, you can of course substitute them in this recipe.
Soup in a Cold Climate
“This sure warms me up,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, spooning her soup.
“Yes,” I agreed. “Though our winter has been fairly mild compared to the northeastern part of the US.”
“Those poor folks in Boston keep having one winter storm after another,” said Mrs K R.
“Is that what they call a snowball effect?” I asked between slurps.
“Well, they’re definitely snowed under,” said Mrs K R.
“Fortunately, spring will be here in just a few weeks.” I said. “And that’s snow joke.”
“You sleighed me with that one,” said Mrs K R. “Not.”
Probably time to shut up. I know when I’m on thin ice.
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