Friday, January 15, 2010

busy busy bean soup

This was the perfect soup to have simmering away on the stove while I was working.  Wednesdays are our busy nights with yoga and basketball, so this soup was ready for the boyfriend before he headed off to basketball, and I ate this when I came home from yoga.  If I had some thyme or rosemary I would have put that in too, with the tomatoes I think.  But, the soup was pretty good just as it is.  If I had thought it out better, I would have made the focaccia I baked on Thursday on Wednesday to eat with the soup.  Together, they are making a pretty good lunch today!

I did very little to change the focaccia recipe.  I let the dough rise for 1 and half hours for its first rise, and probably an hour and a half for it's second rise.  I got caught up running some errands!  It's a beautiful dough that was very forgiving, and the focaccia is dense and yummy.  We didn't have rosemary so we topped ours with olives throughout, and some crushed red pepper on one quarter, some oregano on another quarter, and some onions on a little strip.  All variations were delicious!

Bean Soup (Basically Minestrone)
Makes 6 servings
Takes 3 hours

1 cup dried white beans
4 cups water
1 onion, sliced
4 small cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
1 16 oz. jar of tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup orzo

If you remember, or are good at planning ahead, put the beans and four cups of water in a bowl, cover, and let sit overnight.  Otherwise, in a bowl, cover white beans with 4 cups of boiling water and let sit for 1 hour.

In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in some olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pot).  When they begin to soften, add the smoked paprika and cook until the oil turns red and the onions are completely translucent.  Add the bay leaf and peppercorns and cook a bit more.

Drain the beans and add to the pot, stirring well.  Let cook for a minute or two.  Add the jar of tomatoes, salt (1 tsp. for now*) and then 2 jars of water.  Raise heat so that it boils, and then reduce heat back to medium and let simmer, covered, for 40 minutes to 1 hour.  Check for salt and doneness of beans, and when you are satisfied with the beans being cooked, add carrots.  Start water for pasta and cook a few minutes shorter than package directions.  Add pasta and spinach to soup and cook for a few more minutes.  If you are going to serve it later, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit until you are ready to reheat.

* I ended up using 2 and a half spoons of salt in the soup (plus more in the water for cooking pasta).  It was a little on the salty side...

Focaccia with Olives
Makes 8 very big servings
Takes 4 hours total rising and baking time

2 cups warm water (105°F  to 115°F - it is very important that your water is not too hot.  too cold is fine)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
4 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour (I used bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata or Greek), pitted, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

Place 2 cups warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over; stir with fork. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes.

Add 4 1/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Knead dough on floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into ball. Oil large bowl; add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.  There is nowhere in my house that is warm right now, so I put it in the oven with the light on.

Punch down dough; knead into ball and return to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes or less.

Coat a large, lipped baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down dough.  At this stage, mine was so beautiful!  With all those long gluten strings that you are supposed to swoon over in your bread dough.  And readers, I did swoon, but I forgot to take a photograph.  Next time...

Transfer to prepared sheet. Using fingertips, press out dough to edges of the sheet, this will be difficult because the dough will want to contract.  Persevere.  Let dough rest 10 minutes.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle olives and chopped rosemary evenly over. Let dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475°F. Press fingertips all over dough, forming indentations. Bake bread until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve bread warm or at room temperature.

We couldn't stop ourselves from eating before the picture was taken!


  1. ahem, the "boyfriend" has a new title, i believe?

  2. That foccacia looks ridiculously good!

    Question: I thought that if you put the salt in too early that the beans would get tough? Anne Burrell my new favorite person on the Food Network, doesn't salt till the beans are the right consistency, and then she adds it to the cooking water at the end, and lets the beans steep in that for 15 min. I have been liking the way that comes out. Also she cooks them with whole carrots, celery, garlic, and onions, so they make a stock at the same time that they are cooking. It's pretty yummy.

    i'm making Ribollita with my bro (Trip) tonight. I'll let you know how it goes.

  3. the focaccia was so good! i think next time i will try to halve the recipe and bake it in a pyrex. it was just too much bread for us.

    I am not sure about the salt and beans thing. i will definitely try it without salting until the very end. i only added one tsp of salt at the beginning and didn't add the rest til the very end.

    These beans were cooked with the tomatoes, onions and garlic. I don't like the taste of carrots or celery in stock, so I only added the carrots at the end to be a vegetable in the soup rather than a flavor of the soup.

  4. I'm going to try both the soup and the focaccia today. Thanks for the great recipe ideas!

  5. Let me know how it goes! And just to warn you, the orzo got so fat about an hour later. It was delicious!

  6. Going well so far! The soup's done. I did as George suggested and waited until the end to add salt. I also used canned tomatoes with no added salt. At the end, I felt it needed more salt! Easy enough fix....

    The dough is rising for round 2. Very excited for the focaccia!