Soup of the Week: Sexy, Silky, Smooth Bean Soup Base With a Million Uses

I know “sexy” isn’t an adjective one would typically associate with beans, but bear with me on this because this soup base can be turned into something, or a few somethings, that are very, very sexy.

Not only that, but it can be bent and twisted for use in a lot of different ways. As such, this will be a post in three parts, and likely rather wordy, so I’ll get right to it.

Yer Basic Boiled Beans
What you need:

  • 1.5 cups of dry white beans, like cannellini, navy (aka: white pea beans or white bean peas as I’ve come to learn), soranini, toscanello, corona and schiaccioni – stay away from white kidney beans as they become grainy and that’s not the kind of texture we’re looking for
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Water

What you do:

  • Reconstitute your beans by soaking them for at least 8 hours. We’ve been using the cheater soak instructions for the pressure cooker robot, Henry David Thoreau (because beans), for this with lovely results since we got it, so if you have one of those, maybe try that.
  • Drain the beans and put all of the ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with enough water to cover by 1-2 inches.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to an even simmer over medium-low heat.
  • Let simmer for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary to keep the beans covered.

The Silky, Smooth Bean Base

What you need:

  • Your boiled beans (there should be about 3 cups, not including the stock you boiled them in)
  • Your bean boiling stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large, yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Water, milk (bovine or nut of choice), or cream enough to thin the soup to your desired consistency – remember to consider your diners (are they vegan? lactose-intolerant?) in making this choice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

What you do:

  1.  Drain your boiled beans, reserving the stock.
  2. In your large pot, over medium heat, add the oil, onions, garlic and a little salt.
  3. Once the onions and garlic are translucent, add the celery.
  4. Continue to sautée, stirring frequently, until the onions are *just* browning.
  5. Add a little of the reserved bean stock to deglaze, then add the beans.
  6. Use an immersion blender to blend the beans, onions, garlic, and celery together, adding stock to loosen as you go, until combined. If you don’t have an immersion blender and need to use a food processor or blender, kill the heat and blend the mixture in batches, until smooth, then return the lot of it to the pot over medium-high heat.
  7. Continue simmer and smooth it out to your desired consistency. I like it pretty thin and certainly wanted it that way for the sexy soup, so I used all of the reserved stock and added water until it was the consistency of egg nog. Keep in mind that, like other sauces and gravies, this will thicken once it’s plated (bowled?) and cools a little.
  8. Season and use as your little hearts desire.

What Next?

The sky is the limit from here, kittens! You now have a vat full of a high-protein, meat-free, gluten-free, lactose-free (if you didn’t use milk or cream to thin), nut-free (if you didn’t use a nut milk to thin) flavour delivery vehicle that is also pretty damned delicious on its own.

You can:

  • Use it as a gravy substitute for any pot pie
  • Toss in some sautéed veg and call it a cream of mushroom/leek/spinach soup
  • Toss in some cheese and wine and use it as a pasta sauce (yes, even for casseroles! I’ll be using it to make a lasagna with what I have leftover in the next few days)
  • Chill it and add more lemon, some garlic and herbs for a creamy salad dressing
  • Add some shallots, chervil and tarragon and serve it over fish or veg like a Venetian sauce
  • Use it as the base of a blanquette
  • Make the sexy soup that I did last night

The Sexy Soup

What makes this soup sexy? To my mind, there’s sexiness in a dish that checks off all of the flavour boxes and incorporates just enough textures and flavour combinations to feel engaged with it, especially when it begins with a silky, smooth base and looks pretty. This dish requires some attention to detail in order to achieve all of that, which is also sexy. It’s not a dish that one simply wolfs down, there’s stuff to think about, different approaches to take with it, processing to do beyond chewing and swallowing. All sexy.

I used shrimp as the topper for this one as I was craving shrimp, but one could just as easily use chicken, sautéed mushrooms, marinated and roasted tofu, or toasted nuts.

What you need (for two, meal-sized bowls of soup):

  • 4 cups of your silky, smooth bean base
  • 3 cups of finely chopped spinach
  • 12 large, cleaned, peeled shrimp
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tbsp olive oil for sautéeing
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds, lightly bruised
  • 1 tsp chili flakes, lightly bruised
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 a baguette, or some rolls, in 1/2 inch slices for croutons

What you do:

  1. Heat your soup base in a pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a whisk and adding liquid (water, stock, milk, whatever) to keep it smooth and from burning.
  2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry your bread sliceds in olive oil until browned, then set those aside.
  3. In the same skillet over medium-high heat, begin sautéeing your spinach in 2 tbsp of the olive.
  4. In a small pot, over medium-low heat, add the caraway seeds, chili flakes and smoked paprika until fragrant. DO NOT BURN.
  5. Add the oil and the garlic and reduce the heat to low.
  6. Once the spinach begins to crisp, move it to one side of the skillet and sautée the shrimps on the other side over medium-high heat in the remaining tablespoon of oil until opaque and just browning. You can use two separate pans for this, I’m just a lazy dishwasher.
  7. Using a fine strainer, strain your tempered oil into a pouring vessel.
  8. For best presentation, divide the spinach between two wide, shallow bowls, making mounds of it in the centre of each.
  9. Divide the hot soup base between the bowls, pouring it around the spinach, not on top.
  10. Top the spinach mounds with the shrimps, then drizzle each bowl with a little of the tempered oil and serve with croutons.

 

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