It’s a cool April day here. The kids are lounging in the living room with their noses in books. It’s their Spring break. Normally we head out of town, but this year we stayed back, and we’re trying to make the most of it. I am looking forward to watching the leaves unfurl on the trees and getting a few more garden beds prepped for planting. Today, I poured a hot cup of coffee and started jotting down a long list of things to do.
One thing I knew I wanted to do after the busyness of the past couple of days was to make a big pot of soup for lunch. Hardly list-worthy, I suppose, but a to-do nonetheless.
It is not an over-exaggeration to say that soup is my favorite food category in the world. Every kind of soup. I could eat pots and pots of it. I love the way soup melds many flavors at once and is the perfect way to mix proteins and vegetables, herbs and spices, salt and heat, into a beautiful one-bowl meal.
I was at the store yesterday and discovered a new bean. People, I love discovering new food. This one caught my eye because of it’s distinctive coloring and it’s memorable name: Orca Beans. Right? How cool is that name? I decided to bring home a bag and make Orca Bean Vegetable Soup. Have you heard of Calypso beans? Or “yin-yang” beans? That’s the Orca Bean. It’s a black-and-white bean that cooks beautifully into a savory bowl of goodness.
I think I have explained before that I’m not a fan of following a recipe. It makes me feel stuck and nervous, like I have to color inside the lines. I love recipes for inspiration, and I am not putting down the world of food preparation and recipe-making. It just drives me crazy to worry about all the things that could go “wrong” with food–when, really, if you let your good tastes drive your food preparation, you just can’t go wrong. If you use fresh food, and you flavor it with herbs and spices that you enjoy, good oil, and a great set of sea salt and fresh ground pepper mills, you’ll love your meal. It’s that simple. And every meal you make is an opportunity to experiment and enjoy.
This soup is easy-peasy and soooo good. It has a clean flavor palette. It doesn’t use a ton of ingredients, and I didn’t even use a soup stock. It’s just fresh food, fresh water, and good seasonings muddled together in a big pot. Yum.
To start, wash a few cups of orca beans in a big soup pot. I used about 3 cups of dry beans. Cover with water. Add a piece of Atlantic Iceland Kelp (seaweed). The kelp helps soften the skin of the beans and makes them cook faster while also aiding in digestion of them. This is a key addition to any of your bean soups, so buy some if you can. It shouldn’t be a show-stopper, though; you can make this soup without it by simply adding a half-teaspoon of baking soda to the water to help soften them and reduce the gas-producing qualities of the beans while cooking.
Bring beans to a rolling boil, remove from heat, and let sit for an hour. Remove the kelp, rinse the beans, add fresh water, replace the kelp, and bring to a boil again. Simmer, stirring often, until beans are soft, but not falling apart.
Meanwhile, chop coarsely:
A large onion (I used a yellow onion; any color will do)
Lots of fresh garlic (we really like garlic over here, so I used 10 cloves)
4 carrots washed, cut in half, and chopped thinly (don’t peel them–keep the skin on for better flavor)
6 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
1 package of frozen corn (16 ounces)
Other veggies that you enjoy (cauliflower or fresh kale or chard would be delicious)
Cook onions and garlic in a separate pot with a generous drizzle of high-heat oil (I used avocado oil; I also like grapeseed oil), along with equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil. Coat with the oil and stir over medium heat. Don’t be afraid of the oil. It adds tremendous flavor and umami to the whole soup experience.
Add to the pot, to taste, your favorite herbs and spices. Today I used:
Cumin powder (a couple of teaspoons)
Ground coriander (a couple of teaspoons)
Yellow mustard seed (a generous sprinkle–I wonder if I should have used more)
Coat onions and garlic with the oil and spices, and cook until transparent. Then add remaining veggies and cook for a few minutes before adding all the beans and bean stock to the pot.
Add a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes, or about 26 ounces. I like to use Pomi chopped tomatoes. The flavor is amazing. By the end of the summer, I hope to use only canned tomatoes from our gardens.
Finally, add additional water, if necessary, along with a generous amount of sea salt (I like pink Himalayan rock salt), a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, some extra fresh herbs if you have them, and simmer to combine flavors. Don’t overcook; you want the carrots to still have some life to them–a little bit of texture when you bite into them, rather than mush. Continue to stir until all the salt has dissolved and flavored the soup. Add more salt and herbs to taste.
Top with fresh herbs, green onions, or chopped tomatoes, and a quick grind of chili pepper or sea salt and black pepper. Cilantro would be great here.
If there’s one thing I want to convey in every “recipe” I post here, it’s that food is flexible. It is begging to be experimented with and enjoyed your way. Don’t turn away from a recipe just because it has an ingredient you don’t like; instead, replace that ingredient with something you do like (even if it’s swapping the Orca beans in this recipe for lentils, or something non-beany altogether, like ground turkey or several big heads of fresh cauliflower).
With many thanks to Delightful Vegans, a yummy site I found this morning while searching for Orca bean soup recipes, who posted a delicious series of photos and ingredients for their Chunky Vegetable Orca Bean Soup that inspired this one.