Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Magical Bean Soup

I hoped to test out holiday cookie recipes, intending to share a healthier version or two.  I envisioned cranberry pistachio biscotti perhaps, coconut snowflakes, gingerbread men lined in a row. But suddenly, December started flying by.  As I glanced at the date on the calendar, I thought, could that be right?  Are we less than two weeks away from Christmas?  My decorations were still sitting in boxes in our basement and we had yet to bring home a tree. Our windowsills were bare, without the usual glow illuminating from the candlestick lights in each window.  I began to feel a pang of jealousy at the beautifully decorated houses I passed each night driving home from work.  Not a single Christmas present bought, not a card mailed, nor a stocking hung by the chimney with care.  How did this happen?  I am by no means a procrastinator.  am the girl who prided herself on completing her fourth grade science fair project the same day it was assigned, puffy painted poster and all.  Sadly, it was definitely not beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  I was lacking a sense of Christmas urgency. I hadn't felt it, really felt it yet.

Then something wonderful happened, a small gesture that kicked off a Christmas domino effect.  My mother dropped off a beautiful handmade floral arrangement on my front steps.  I promptly began blasting Christmas carols and set out to find a perfect tree; not too big, not too small, and hopefully not requiring tree trunk mutilation.  Snow globes made their way to end tables and pinecones garnished the mantle. Red and green sprinkled the house like fairy dust.  With a pine needle woodsy aroma enveloping our living room later that day, I couldn't help but smile as I unwrapped my favorite childhood ornament; a ceramic ballerina dressed in a silver tutu.  

The real magic happened the following day as my mother and I sat inside the Boston Opera House, watching the real Nutcracker unfold.  Little girls in velvet and satin dresses held their mothers hands waiting in anticipation for the show to start.  I've wanted to see it since I was a little girl myself.  Sparkle, glitter, snow, elaborate costumes, and an endless barrage of pirouettes...it was magical.  There is nothing quite like watching a story unfold before a live orchestra.  I felt a bit transformed by the overdose of Christmas cheer.  In my mesmerized state of mind, I sat in my seat giving second thought to my dreams of one day becoming a real ballerina.  I should mention my ballet "career" was short lived and never extended beyond fifth grade.  While I do regret quitting before ever tying on Pointe shoes, I reminded myself that a.) I am just shy of six feet tall, b.) there are men in tights with more beautiful legs than me, and c.) I have stage fright.  A girl can dream.  My mother leaned over as the curtain fell and said, "I think you enjoyed this more at 29 than you would have at 7."  She was right.  She always is.  I walked through the door of my house later that night to a brightly lit Christmas tree and my new nutcracker ornament found its place next to the ballerina.  I finally felt that feeling I was missing.  I caught the Christmas bug.  I knew it would happen.

While I've yet to turn out a single batch of cookies, I have been turning out batches of this bean soup I thought I'd share.  I've gushed over the Nutcracker and left little time for a proper description of it, so bear with me, assuming you're still with me.  I've made consecutive batches of it over the past few weeks and have yet to tire of it.  Its straightforward and unpretentious, but feels healing and nourishing.  It's chock full of a variety of beans, edamame, and tempeh, and simmered in a vegetable tomato broth.  It's warm, hearty, and in my Nutcracker delirium, I'll go off on the deep end and say it's magical.  'Tis the season.

~Magical Bean Soup~

1 cup dried sixteen-mix beans, cooked * (this will yield 2 1/2 cups cooked)
1 cup frozen edamame beans
4 oz. crumbled tempeh
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 cups vegetable stock
14.5 oz can or jarred diced tomatoes in their juices
sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook beans if you have not already done so.  See directions below.*

In a large pot, add olive oil over medium heat.  Saute garlic, onion, celery, carrot, oregano and thyme for about five minutes, stirring often, until vegetables start to soften.  Add in vegetable stock and diced tomatoes in their juices and cook for a few minutes more.  Add beans and edamame.  Bring just up to a bubble and then reduce heat, simmering for 15-20 minutes.  Crumble in tempeh with your fingers.  Season with sea salt and pepper to your liking.  Serves 6-8.

*Rinse and sort through your beans.  Soak overnight covered in water.  In the morning, drain beans and place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  I add in a small piece of kombu (dried seaweed), to help tenderize the beans.  Bring the beans to a boil (skim off the foam that immediately forms) and simmer until the beans are cooked through and tender.  The process will typically take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, even longer.  With the sixteen bean mix, the process takes me about two hours.  Remove from heat, strain, and discard kombu.  I typically cook big batches of beans ahead of time to make soups like this one.  You can keep the beans refrigerated or freeze them in bags too.  


Clair said...

Oh goodness, the Christmas season is so elusive, isn't it? That arrangement is gorgeous though, and the soup looks delish!

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I comment on your site, but I've been reading your posts for about a few months. I admire the passion with which you write the articles and dream that someday I can do the same. Love

Amy said...

Oh gosh, I think I'm exactly like you about ballet. I've kind of always dreamed of becoming a ballerina (and who are we kidding? I still do), despite the fact I've never once taken a class on it... oh well. I'm going to the nutcracker this year too! You've made me so excited. What a nice post to read. And is that bread homemade?? It looks fantastic, as does the soup.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for the compliment. Happy you've been enjoying the posts. Amy-so funny! Have you seen it before? You'll love it! The bread is note homemade, it's from a farm that has a bakery and it is fantastic! They bake it right there. Every good bowl of soup needs a good bread.

Amy said...

Nope, I've never seen it! But my mom is taking me... I think she feels guilty about never putting me in ballet lessons as a child so she's trying to make it up to me. :) And I'm jealous! I wish I could buy my bread from a place like that. After this holiday season my goal is to make most of my own bread... we'll see how that goes, haha! And you're right-- good bread and good soup go together.