“How can I help?” Welcome words, offered by my husband the other Sunday, as I headed over to paint the Buffalo closet, ahead of the carpenter coming to put back the shelving. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the shortening day, the jobs to be done, the overflowing refrigerator, I smiled in gratitude and said, “Soup!”
I turned to a recipe offered by our farmer Karyn in her weekly newsletter two autumns ago. She titled it “Fall Inspiration Soup,” but I think of it as what’s-in-the fridge soup, or now as cooperative, collaborative soup (my favorite thing). It’s infinitely variable – and quick – no sauté needed!
I piled possible ingredients on the kitchen island: new potatoes, stems of chard, celery, shallots, a leek or two, and one sweet onion. Fresh rosemary. A can of crushed tomatoes – and beans.
Oops, I hadn’t soaked beans, this being a last moment offer. I remembered Mark Bittman calls the myth about soaking “the most egregious, and the most harmful” of the bean myths, because “it has given millions of people the impression that beans must be prepared well in advance.” Bittman says flatly and in italics: “Although soaking speeds cooking, it does not do so significantly,” and that soaking overnight shaves just 15 to 30 minutes off the cooking time.
But, if you soak, Bittman tells us: “Soak the right way.” (Soaking does reduce the oligosaccharides in beans – those hard to digest carbohydrates.)
So I followed his hot water soak advice while I ate breakfast: rinse, sort, and then cover beans with water in a pot (I used a cup of pinto beans and six cups of water). Bring to a boil, cook for two minutes, turn off the heat, and let sit for an hour. Then, after another rinse, I put the beans to cook as usual (well covered with water and salt added), issued instructions, and went off to paint.
I came back to a lovely miracle: soup simmering, beans cooked and ready to add (in just under an hour after their hot soak). This bean method was a revelation – so many times I stall at recipes calling for beans because of lack of planning the day before.
They were delicious – making the soup (an “even better the next day” soup) hearty and inspiring.