2 people, 2 pounds of beans, 1 week.

October 12, 2009

Sometimes I get flashes of complete and utter brilliance. At least I think so. And sometimes these flashes of brilliance turn into something great! At least I think so. The man in my house may not really agree.

Last week, I got one of my flashes. I was rummaging around the pantry, searching for orzo, when I spied a 2-pound bag of dried Great Northern Beans. I have no idea how they got there; I buy beans in cans. Canned beans are just too convenient for me to pass up. I know, I know, the markup on those things is criminal, but I’m lazy. Cooking dried beans requires soaking and rinsing and cooking. You know–effort.

But I saw that lowly bag of beans and–ZAPPO! Flash of brilliance! I decided that I was going to cook that whole 2-pound bag of beans and use it to feed hubs and I for an entire week with it. Because, you know, eating beans is good for you. And the economy. And the planet!

Jen at Use Real Butter and Tami at Running With Tweezers are attempting this week to feed themselves for $30. I think this is an awesome idea. Alas, I am too lazy to calculate how much every spice and vegetable costs, so I’m not joining them. I’m following their escapades with interest, though, and so should you. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m imagining that it’s a complete pain in the ass to feed yourself for 30 bucks a week.

But it’s an ass-pain that is a reality for many people on this planet. Sadly.

So, I declared the week of October 9th-16th Bean Week at Chez T. 2 pounds of dried beans, 2 people, a week to eat them all. GENIUS!

At least I thought so. My husband was not so enthusiastic. “Am I sleeping in a separate room this week?” he said.

Well, there was that little issue. But we’ve been married long enough now that we know: farts happen. I considered buying Beano, but in the end I was too lazy to pick it up.

I rinsed and sorted the beans, which was a little alarming, because I found quite a few rocks cavorting around in the bag with the beans. Rocks? WTF? No wonder they always tell you to sort the beans–bummer to be tucking into a bowl of beans and crunch on a freaking rock. My bag contained 4 rocks. I have no idea if this is average or not.

Anyways, I set my HUGE dutch oven full of beans and water on the counter over night to soak. In the morning, I rinsed the beans again, put them in new (salted) water and simmered them, covered, until they were tender. I like my beans pretty tender (hence why I like canned beans) and so it took quite a while before I deemed them ready. As in, an hour and a half. And that’s WITH soaking them overnight–who knew it took so long? Not me, obviously.

Then I transferred my beans to a HUGE Tupperware container and stored them in the refrigerator. One of the goals of Bean Week was to consume less meat. I decided to use small amounts of very flavorful meat to enhance the flavor of several of the dishes on the week’s roster. It’s good for us, right? Good for the planet, too. Good on the Wallet, yeah?

It was wicked cold this weekend; we woke up to 18 degree temperatures Saturday and Sunday morning, with flurries on and off both days. Perfect soup weather! I had clipped a recipe from O Magazine (October 2007) for White Bean Soup with Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Croutons. The recipe looked great, but I’d never gotten around to making it. Of course, when I did make it, I had to tinker with the recipe because I can’t leave well enough alone.

I jettisoned the crouton idea, mainly because I don’t like croutons. Is that weird? Everyone else I know loves them, but I think they’re just sort of not necessary. They just sort of muck things up, I think.

I also cooked a few slices of smoked bacon and sprinkled them on top of the soup with a dusting of chopped parsley. I think a little bacon makes everything better. I also added a dash of cayenne and some thyme along with the rosemary–it made for a fuller-flavored dish.

White Bean Soup with Rosemary and Bacon
based on White Bean and Rosemary Soup with Roasted Garlic Croutons (Oct. ’07, O magazine)

serves 4-5

1 whole head garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, slliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups white beans, cooked
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked crumbled bacon and chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top off the garlic head so cloves are just exposed. Rub the head with a teaspoon of olive oil and wrap loosely in foil. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes; cool until comfortable to the touch. Squeeze cloves from the heads into a small bowl and mash with a fork.

In a large soup pot, melt the butter and oil. Add onions, carrots and celery and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth and mashed garlic and bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook 20 minutes or until carrots are very tender. Add beans, rosemary, thyme and cayenne and cook 10-15 more minutes.

With an immersion blender or a food processor, puree 2/3 of the soup. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If desired, garnish with crumbled bacon and fresh parsley.

We thought this soup was delicious and tasted quite rich–even though it was healthy! It made for a warming meal with salad and bread.

And we did end up sleeping in separate places last night; however, it was a snoring issue, not a gas problem.

And guess what’s for lunch today? Leftover soup!

Stay tuned for more episodes of Bean Week!!

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