Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bean Stews

The rustic nature of bean stews can keep me from making them when I'm consciously trying to produce food that is more challenging, technical, refined, or whatever. Luckily, the other day I needed lunch and my limited pantry was not inspiring elevated cooking, so I somewhat reluctantly prepared a bean stew. The result was one of the most complex soups I've ever had, and though I'm just a hair ashamed to be proud of it, that's not stopping me. Each bite offered a different flavor profile than the one before, as if the soup were constantly changing in the bowl. A few days ago, a coworker and I were talking about a dish of hers from our current menu that I am quite taken with. She said that it had been called one-dimensional or something like that, and I replied by saying (only half-jokingly) that we weren't good enough to cook in any more dimensions than one. Funny how this soup accidentally proved me wrong.

Ever-Changing Bean & Mustard Soup

Simmer onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, dried tomatoes, cannellini beans, pinto beans, bay leaves, and fennel seeds in water to cover. The idea is to make the beans creamy if they are not already, cook the onion and garlic, and leach the flavors of the bay leaves and fennel seeds into the soup. Fish out the bay leaves. Stir in steamed kale. Add water or reduce the soup for consistency - it should have some loose liquid, but not a huge amount. Season with black pepper and salt. Stir in a (TINY!) bit of Dijon mustard and some minced sage. Check seasoning and balance. No flavor should dominate the others.

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