The smells of beans cooking for hours on the stove makes me think of ... fall, fires in the fireplace, good friends, and good food. I had some delicious beans with ham hocks this last weekend, and realized it had been way too long since I'd cooked up a pot of beans at home. It's been since last fall! Here's a fall recipe for beans with ham and greens. I used cannelloni beans, mainly because that was the only kind of dry white bean I found the day I cooked, but feel free to use any kind of white bean - great Northern, small whites, or cannelloni. Do remember that dried beans don't keep forever! They're tastiest when used within one year of drying. In the past, beans didn't have a "use by" date, but you'll find they have one now. You can still use beans after a year, they just won't taste quite as fresh.
1 cup white beans
4 cups water
1 ham hock, or 1 cup chopped leftover ham (omit for vegan)
2 cups water
2 cups stock, vegetable or low sodium chicken
Extra water as needed
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup carrot, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch lengths
1/2 cup zucchini, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch lengths
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 can tomatoes, diced
4 handfuls spinach leaves
salt, if needed
Pour beans into a heavy bottomed soup pot. Sort through dry beans and remove any that don't meet the grade. Add the water to the pot and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the beans, and allow to soak for about 1 hour. Pour off the water. Add the ham, water, stock, and bay leaf and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and let the beans simmer for about 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the type of bean. Add more water, if needed, to make sure the beans are covered by about 1 inch with water and broth. Taste the beans about every 30 minutes. When they are almost tender, add the carrot, zucchini, onion, and garlic. Continue cooking until the beans are tender. Add the tomatoes and heat until the soup is hot. Add the spinach and continue to cook until the spinach wilts. Taste the soup, and add salt and pepper if needed. If you use less water and broth, this will be thick, what I used to call stoup - not quite a stew, not quite a soup, but the best of both. If you'd like a more traditional soup, simply add a little more water.
Stealthy Cooking Tip: Add acidic foods, such as tomatoes, after beans are cooked. The acid in the tomatoes keeps the beans from cooking ... so, if they're added too soon, it can take hours and hours for your beans to get tender! This recipe is also good with other kinds of greens. If you use kale or collard greens, chop the greens into bite size pieces, then add them when you add the carrots and zucchini. Spinach is a quick cooking green, but kale and collards take longer to cook.