This week, I found myself making enough soup to feed an army. I'm normally not quite so enthusiastic with my cooking but between my husband and I, instructions got garbled enough that he soaked my entire bag of Borlotti beans, rather than just half the package. There was no way I was going to waste those precious beans so I got out the giant stock pot and got to it.
You may think my devotion to saving these beans is a bit peculiar - after all, dried beans are cheap and easy to find. First of all, these weren't just any beans, these were Rancho Gordo beans. When I went to San Francisco this past September, one of my goals was to come back with some of these gorgeous beauties. Thanks to the Ferry Market Building and the lovely Anita from Married with Dinner, I scored two bags full - one filled with Borlotti beans, the other full of Christmas Limas. It would be a cold day in Hell before I wasted any of these jewels.
The other reason I was keen on using every single one of these beans is because the only local source of dried beans in the area(that I've found so far) would be beans that I would grow. I may find a way to do this in the future but most beans for drying are produced on fairly vigorous plants that take up a lot of space. My city lot can only hold so many plants, much to my dismay. I do have some bush cowpeas ordered this year so I may be able to produce my own beans yet, although each year I end up finding out that my seed order is too enthusiastic for my yard and my time. So even though these beans weren't entirely local, the fact that I carried them on my person made them local enough for me to use in my challenge.
I started out sauteing some local sun-dried tomato sausage that we purchased from Laurel Creek Meat. When it was almost done, I added some potato onions from my yard. I cooked those for about eight minutes. Then I added a few minced cloves of our Tennessee Redneck garlic and deglazed the pan with a little bit of unlocal balsamic vinegar. All of this spicy goodness got thrown into my huge stock pot. I added tons of chicken stock (made from local chicken) and then added my precious beans.
One thing I was amazed at was how tasty the beans tasted after a quick soak. There wasn't that over-whelming, almost metallic beany taste that so many dried beans seem to have. These were sweet in a way that I've never tasted in a dry bean before.
After cooking for about 30 minutes, I then added way too many cans of my dwindling supply of locally canned tomatoes. Half of those I pureed before adding to my soup. I tasted for salt and added rosemary, oregano and parsley from my yard. I cooked this until the beans were tender and my soup was done!
After waiting a day (I'm a firm believer that lots of soups & stews always taste better the second day), we served us up a hearty portion of our delicious soup and thanked the city of San Francisco for giving us "local" beans. After hardly making a dent in it, we packaged up portions of this soup for friends of ours that just became new parents and put the rest in bags for our freezer.