Bean Soup, A Hit

As if the Speedy No Knead Bread wasn’t enough of a hit, Monday night I made a bean soup that everyone sucked down like it was their last meal. Even J, who doesn’t always love beans, finished her bowl and said that it was the best bean soup that I’ve made.

The speedy version of Mark Bittman’s “No Knead Bread” was introduced to me by my sister-in-law during our trip back east in December. What a revelation. I don’t think it is better than the non-speedy version, which I love. It is just that it takes SO much less time and planning. I also find the dough a little easier to work with. You can start it before lunch, forget about it for 4 hours, then when you are back home, just get it ready for the oven and bake it. This time, I mixed the dough at about 9:00 am, thinking I’d fold it and bake it starting at 1:00. But, I forgot that I had a school meeting at 1:30, then was out most of the rest of the afternoon. So, I poked the dough back down into the bowl at 1:15 before I headed out. Then, when I came back home at about 3:45, I turned on the oven, folded the dough and let it rest, went back out for a carpool, came back at 4:20 and threw it in the oven. By 5:05 it was out of the oven and I was on the road again. Very forgiving, this bread.

The soup, too, was forgiving. I soaked the beans using the quick method (bring to a boil in a lot of water, turn off the heat and let sit for an hour), then drained them, added most of the rest of the ingredients, simmered everything for about 1 1/2 hours. Then, I had to head out for my meeting, so I turned off the heat and left everything on the stove. Later, after I put the bread back in the oven, I added tomatoes, cut the ham off the bone, added some barley, and simmered everything for another 1 1/2 hours, while I was out doing errands.

Monday Bean Soup
2 cups mixed dried beans, soaked
8 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large stalk celery, 1/2 inch dice
1 large carrot, 1/2 inch dice
1 smoked ham hock, cut into 3 pieces (by the butcher!)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, rubbed
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup barley
1 14 oz. can plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Combine pre-soaked beans with water, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, ham hock, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the ham bones from the soup. Cut the ham off the bones and into bite sized pieces (make sure to take off fat). Discard the bones. Add the ham pieces, the barley and tomatoes (crush before adding to the pot) to the pot and continue to simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.


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