If mother nature exists, I’m convinced she hordes snow all winter just to dump it all on us in February. I love the snow, but in New York City, fluffy white powder turns to grey sludge in a matter of hours. Today’s snow has just turned to freezing rain, so it’s pretty gross out there.
In this weather, there are few things as comforting as a hearty bowl of vegetable soup…as long it doesn’t require a trip to the store. For this Meatless Monday I’m focusing on ingredients from the pantry and winter veggies from the crisper drawer. I played with making an Italian style minestrone or pasta e fagioli during last week’s snowstorm, but this week we’re taking a detour through Louisiana instead.
At the heart of this winter bean stew is the “holy trinity” of onions, celery, and bell pepper. Assertive French Creole flavors of garlic, paprika, oregano, thyme, and chili pepper highlight the sweet potato and mellow out the bitterness of kale.
I’m using a combination of creamy butter beans and earthy black eyed peas here, but any beans will work. For convenience the recipe calls for canned beans, but I always cook my own from dry. To match one 15 oz. can of beans, you need 1/2 cup dry beans. This typically yields 1-1/2 cups cooked and drained. When I don’t have vegetable stock, I save the cooking liquid from my beans to use in the soup.
In the summer when the farmer’s markets are filled with fresh herbs and seasonal specialties like ramps, blend them with olive oil to make a simple pesto, and store them in the freezer. Then you can enjoy their flavors all winter long. The oil keeps the pesto from hardening so you can use it right from the freezer. Just before serving, stir a little basil or ramp pesto into this soup for some fresh herb flavor and aroma.
Winter Bean Stew with Sweet Potato and Kale
I’d like to think of this as a distinctively American version of French Provençal Soupe au Pistou or Italian Minestra, but that shouldn’t stop you from having some pasta with your fagioli. I’m not ashamed to say we very much enjoy this soup with Annie’s White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, but it’s equally delicious served with grilled cheese sandwiches too.
Yield: 10 cups or
about 6 to 8 servings
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced sweet bell pepper
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2-1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 ea. bay leaves
1 ea. 15 oz. can diced tomato
1 ea. 15 oz. can black eyed peas, drained
1 ea. 15 oz. can butter beans, drained
1 cup sweet potato, peeled & diced
3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
1-1/2 cups chopped kale (frozen OK)
additional salt and pepper to taste
ramp or basil pesto for serving
- Heat olive oil in a 5 quart dutch oven over medium heat. Sweat onions, celery, and pepper, for about 8 to 10 minutes until onions are translucent and celery is beginning to soften.
- Add garlic, herbs, and spices and cook for 1 minute until fragrant
- Add beans, tomato and sweet potatoes, and enough vegetable stock to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
- Add chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes until the kale is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir a spoonful of herb pesto into each serving of soup. And serve with small pasta or cheese toasts.