Today’s cooking adventure came a little unexpectedly. Hubby is out of town on business and I was planning on having salad for dinner… but something else tapped on my shoulder!
I love to cook up some beans and have them on hand for adding to salad, soups, and stews. I’ve been in a garbanzo bean phase… soaking 1 or 2 cups of garbanzos on Sunday night and then pressure cooking them in the morning for about 15 minutes. I keep them in the fridge in the water they’re cooked in with a little salt, and change the water at least every other day. I like to add a handful or two to my salads. Garbanzos are high in fiber and make a green salad a little more satisfying. Any still hanging around on Friday morning get added to whatever is cooking for lunch.
I think my garbanzo phase may be coming to an end. Without warning and completely out of the blue I felt like cooking white beans today. Also called Navy beans, Great Northern, or Cannellini beans, these are small oblong beans about the size of a skinny pea. Like black-eyed peas, they are fairly quick cooking and don’t require soaking (although if you soak them in water for an hour or more it will shorten cooking time). About the time I had this bean whim, I had to take my car in for a service appointment. So I put about a cup and a half of beans in a bowl and added some veggie broth (really, leftover water from steaming veggies) I’d been saving and set them to soak. Then off to my Toyota dealer.
When I got home an hour or so later, I popped the beans and soaking broth (btw, it is probably best if you are soaking beans more than an hour or two to use plain water) into my trusty pressure cooker. I thought I’d try putting all the ingredients in at once and see what happened. Normally, I’d saute some onion, chopped carrots, maybe a bell pepper, and garlic in the pot, add the beans, herbs, and water and get that cooking first. Then when beans are getting a little soft I’d add any other veggies.
Throwing caution to the wind I tossed in 4-5 small red potatoes cut in chunks (not peeled!), a half bunch of broccoli (it had been in the fridge a week…. I peeled the stalks and chopped them in bite size pieces), a couple of carrots, half a chopped onion, few cloves of chopped garlic, and a green bell pepper (that had also been loitering around too long in the fridge), a little tomato sauce (still some leftover from making Raajma the other day – normally I don’t add tomatoes), along with a little thyme and parsley. I could have used any vegetables but I wanted to use up those stragglers before they were too pathetic! Then I thought, “Oh, what the heck!” and added the rest of my leftover veggie broth/steaming water. By the way, I use the whole bell pepper, seeds and all. You don’t even notice them when they are cooked, plus they are nutritious and full of fiber.
Cooking Tips for Beans
When to Add Salt? There is some controversy about whether to add salt to beans before, in the middle, or after cooking. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter. Do it however you like. Adding salt early on may make the beans take a little longer to cook; that’s all. I have gotten in the habit of adding salt toward the end, after the beans have started to split or become tender.
To Soak or not to Soak? Same goes for soaking: It is not necessary to soak beans in water before cooking, but soaking them greatly decreases cooking time. Also, soaked beans do seem to hold their shape better when cooked (unsoaked beans tend to split apart by the time they are tender). So soak them while you are doing something else (like sleeping, or going to work) and cook them later. Or, don’t soak them. Pop them in the pot with water and let them cook for a few hours on the stove or in a slow cooker. Some say beans are a lot more flavorful cooked the slow way (not soaked and not in a pressure cooker).
Is there Anything that will help Beans be Less… well, Gassy? One train of thought is that adding a little vinegar to the soaking water helps the beans ferment a little bit and therefore makes them easier to digest and produce less gas. I haven’t really noticed much difference either way. You can also add epazote for its carminative properties. Epazote’s unusual and strong flavor goes really well with pinto and black beans. Just add a small palmful to your pot of cooking beans. Otherwise, enjoy that bit of extra air moving around in your belly… at least you know your digestive system is working and, ultimately, it does feel good… right?
Back at the ranch… I put everything in the cooker and let the soup cook at high pressure for about 10 minutes. The beans were ever so slightly chewy. I let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes longer until they were soft enough. Then I added salt and Braggs to taste and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
I took a taste and it was so yummy I had three small bowls, each drizzled with a little more olive oil. Instead of the lighter broth I’d expected, the broccoli florets had gotten so soft with the pressure cooking they had pretty much dissolved into the broth giving it a richer texture. I would make this soup again for sure, especially if pinched for time.
Could it have been better? I think a light bean soup like this is better when cooked without pressure. I personally prefer a lighter broth and would have enjoyed the broccoli more if it wasn’t so overcooked. That said, it was still quite tasty and satisfying! If I’d had hardier greens to add instead of broccoli, like leeks, rapini, or mustard greens, those would have gone really well and might not have thickened the broth like the broccoli did. This soup would be great with some shaved Asiago cheese as garnish and served with a chunk of crusty bread. Sadly I had none of these on hand!
My dear friends, here is the recipe. I think you will enjoy very much!
Lickety Split White Bean & Veggie Soup
Yield: 6 servings
1-1/2 to 2 cups dry navy or cannellini beans, rinsed clean and soaked an hour or two in:
7-8 cups water or veggie broth
3-4 small red potatoes ( a little more than a half pound), cut in bite size chunks
2 large carrots, chopped in rounds or half moons
1 cup diced onion (1/2 large or 1 smallish onion)
1 bell pepper, chopped in medium dice
1/2 bunch broccoli, chopped (peel tough stems first)
1 tsp. thyme (or 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves)
1/4 cup or so chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley (or 1 Tbsp. parsley flakes)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup tomato sauce or 1/2 cup chopped/crushed tomatoes (tomatoes are optional!)
1 tsp. salt
sprinkling of freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Place beans and water in pressure cooker and put on high flame on stove, uncovered. As you prep all the other ingredients, add them to the pot. Cover, bring to pressure, and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and release pressure. Adjust taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. For a brothier soup, add hot water and adjust salt. For thicker soup, crush some of the potatoes and beans against the side of the pot. Serve in bowls topped with shaved Asiago or Parmesan cheese and with a bottle of high quality olive oil and warm crusty bread on the side. Enjoy!
To make this soup the long way use the same ingredients listed above. If you wish to decrease cooking time a bit, soak beans in water as above. Heat the olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, bell pepper until softening. Add garlic and saute a little longer. Add soaked beans and water/broth along with herbs and potatoes. When softening, add broccoli and any other veggies. Cook until beans are soft. Total cooking time is about 45-60 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.