It’s the weekend so it’s time for me to do some cleaning around the apartment and make up a big batch of something for my lunches this week. I got an e-mail from a childhood friend the other day asking if I knew of a lighter way to make the white beans and ham that we both ate as kids. Beans, as she pointed out, would be healthy. Tossing in the ham bone… well, that might cause a points explosion. I had some thoughts on the matter, but I haven’t really tried to replicate the dish in a healthier way. I’m planning to give it a shot in the coming weeks and see what I come up with. Stay tuned, RC! In the meantime, she got me to thinking about dried beans and I remembered that I had a bag of dried pinto beans that has been languishing in the pantry for awhile. I decided that their time had come.
When I was a kid, my mother would often cook a big pot of pinto beans for us to eat during the week. Beans are cheap, a good source of protein and they have tons of healthy fiber too. Sometimes my mom’s pot of beans would have some pork fat tossed in (I mean really, it is quite tasty…), but often they were just innocently cooked in their own broth with a little bit of salt. I suspect that I negated their healthiness by eating them on top of a big ol’ chunk of cornbread with goodness knows what on the side. This is similar to the problem I had with my grandmother’s healthy soup– too much unhealthy stuff in ridiculous portions on the side!
Today I decided that I would try to make my pot of beans more in the style of a soup. One thing that I always liked to have with my beans as a kid was a big spoonful of sweet and spicy southern piccalilli or chow chow. I also decided that I wanted to make a condiment to go with the soup that would give it that same sweet and spicy punch, so I came up with the tomato chipotle ketchup to go on top.
Now, I know that beans take a while to cook. This is obviously not something that you whip up right before dinner. If you are hanging out doing some cleaning and getting caught up with e-mails on a lazy weekend day, however, you have the perfect opportunity to try this recipe:
Just Sweet Enough Pinto Bean Soup with Tomato Chipotle Ketchup
1 pound dried pinto beans, sorted, pre-soaked and rinsed well
1 tsp. olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 cups reduced sodium, fat free, chicken or vegetable broth
8 cups water
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, with 2 cups removed and set aside
2 tsp. salt (plus more if you prefer)
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups of crushed tomatoes (the tomatoes set aside from the 28 ounce can listed in the soup ingredients)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic or cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Preparing the Beans for Cooking
First, rinse the beans and sort out any bad looking beans or foreign objects (I found a tiny rock in my bag…kind of like Charlie Brown on Halloween…). The bag that your beans come in will likely explain the options you have as to pre-soaking the beans. I’ve tried two methods myself– the “quick” method and the overnight method. This time, I did the overnight method where I just put the beans in my big 8 quart soup pot last night, covered them with two inches of water, and left them to sit until I got ready to make my soup today. Easy Peasy! After soaking, pour the beans into a colander, discard the soaking water, and give the beans another good rinse.
2. Getting the Pot Ready for the Beans
While the beans are sitting in the colander, clean the big pot that you used for the pre-soak. Place 1 tsp. of olive oil in the freshly cleaned pot and heat on medium high. When the oil is hot, add the carrot, garlic, celery and 3/4 cup of chopped onion. Sauté the vegetables for 7 minutes or until they start to become soft. At this point, add the black pepper, thyme, broth and water. Increase the heat to high. Add the pre-soaked and rinsed beans to the pot and cover. Bring the bean and veggie mixture to a rolling boil, and then reduce the heat to LOW. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours (mine took 2 hours and 45 minutes) or until the beans are tender when pressed with a fork. Remove from heat.
*Note: The tomatoes and salt will be added at the end of the cooking process as sodium and acid can delay the softening of the beans so just set them aside for now.
3. Making the Tomato Chipotle Ketchup
While the beans are simmering, heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onions to the oil and sauté over medium high heat until onions are slightly softened and translucent (about 6 minutes). Next, add the brown sugar, vinegar, 1/4 tsp of salt, chipotle tabasco and the reserved 2 cups of crushed tomatoes to the saucepan with the onions. Increase the heat until the mixture starts to boil, then cover and immediately reduce heat to LOW. It needs to simmer slowly over low heat in order to prevent sticking and scorching. Set the timer for one hour, and give it a stir every 20 minutes. The mixture should reduce down to about 1 1/2 cups. When it has finished cooking, allow it to cool and then store it in the refrigerator.
4. Finishing the Soup
When the beans are tender and you have removed the pot from the heat, place four cups of the soup mixture (mostly beans and veggies with a little of the broth) in a blender or food processor and puree. Make sure to allow the steam to vent a bit during this process, and be careful as the beans are hot! Place the pureed mixture back into the soup pot, add the remaining crushed tomatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium and allow to cook uncovered for an additional 20 minutes. You might give it a little taste at this point and add more salt if that is your preference.
This makes 10 unofficial 3 point servings, including 2 Tbsp. of the tomato chipotle ketchup in each bowl.
[Editor’s note: I added 2/3 cup of cooked brown rice to my bowl of soup the day after posting this recipe, and I think it might be one of the more filling and tasty lunches I’ve made in awhile. If you have a pot of rice cooked, I’d recommend adding a couple of points worth of rice. Soup+Ketchup+Rice= tasty and filling lunchtime satisfaction!]
I’m very happy with the way this soup turned out. I like the little punch that it gets when the ketchup is mixed in, the beans make it filling, and I think I’m going to enjoy having it for lunch this week! I’m relatively new to recipe writing, so please comment if you have any questions. I’ve tried to make it as easy to follow as possible. Also, this soup would be fine without the tomato chipotle ketchup, but I hope you will take the extra couple of minutes it takes to make this tasty little addition. By the way, if you happen to have any leftover, the ketchup would be great on a turkey burger or with some oven roasted fries.
Now that I have my big batch made and my apartment looking presentable, it is time for me to head to the gym! I hope you are having a great weekend, and let me know if you decide to give this recipe a try!