Monday, August 20, 2012

Jon Gorman's White Bean Soup

Here's another piece from Jon's series on cooking vegan as a non-vegan. This recipe sounds like the perfect early fall soup to be served with a hearty slice of toasted Sourdough. Give it a whirl, and tell us what you think. 

White Bean Soup

2 TB palm oil
2 small leeks or one large leek, sliced
2 shallots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 medium potato, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced (about two teaspoons)
3 cups white beans, cooked
6 cups vegetable stock
3 cups white beans
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice

Cook the beans ahead of time.  You can probably get away with canned beans, but since they’re the main focus of this dish I prefer to cook them ahead of time.  I just cook a 1 lb pound bag of white beans by putting them in the slow cooker to soak overnight and filling the slow cooker with water, then setting the slow cooker on low during the day while I work.  We have a cheap light timer we use with our slow cooker to set it to cook for about 8 hours.  The beans should have a bit of snap when you first bite it, but otherwise be soft.  I scoop out three cups for the recipe and freeze half-pound amounts of beans in sandwich bags for other recipes.

Chop up the leeks and shallots.  Put two tablespoons of palm oil into a soup pot.  I’d say at least an 8 quart pot is needed, but if you’re neater than me you might be able to do it with less.  Once the solids have melted and the pan is hot, add the leeks and shallots. If you don’t have leeks and shallots, two or three onions will do. Cook till the leek and shallots become translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.  And add the carrots and celery and a dash of salt.  Cook until the carrot starts to become tender, about another 5 to 8 minutes or.  Add the garlic for about 30 seconds.  

Then add the stock, another dash of salt, beans, and potato and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes to an hour.  Make sure that the potatoes are soft.  Once they are, puree the soup with a blender and then add the lemon juice.  

This recipe is a merger of a couple of recipes I’ve seen for white bean soup.  One, from a cookbook I’ve mentioned before on Season of the Vegan, is “Extending the Table”.  The other is a cookbook I got recently from the library, “Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food”.  Both recipes are similar, but both use pork fat in the dish.

I didn’t want to use olive or vegetable oil, but I’d thought about trying vegetable shortening or palm oil.  I’ve had some packets of palm oil in ramen before, a curious thick shorting-like fat that I’d never think to call oil. In a moment of odd coincidences, a book I was reading had on a flight back from a recent conference gave me the motivation to get off my duff and try palm oil more seriously.

The essay that gave me the motivation was, ironically enough, “An Ode to Pig” by Bethany Ewald Bultman in “Corn Bread Nation 2: The United States of Barbecue”.  The essay mentions how lard ended up being a substitute in many African dishes for palm oil.  That lead me on a quest to one of our local international grocery stores, World Harvest Food.  They didn’t have the block form of palm oil, but they had a less refined and very red bottle of the lumpy red palm oil. It is a wonderful, slightly nutty and sweet fat that I’ve been enjoying.  I am now using it in many dishes instead of butter or pork fat and in some cases mixing it with another oil or fat. I’m curious to try it in an avocado-centric dish, but haven’t yet. You can probably use olive oil or shortening in this recipe, but it’s worth seeking out palm oil if you can.

In Jon's professional life he combines a love of books and computers by working as part of Library IT for a large academic library. At home, he explores another love, cooking. Not a vegan himself, he's striving to become a conscientious eater, eating more vegetarian and vegan cooking in his normal diet. An avid cookbook reader, he'll share good vegan recipes he comes across on this blog.

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