I'm a fan of marrow beans — an intriguingly named, old-fashioned bean I found on a recent trip to Kalustyan's and couldn't pass up. Some say marrow beans taste like bacon or even fatty bone marrow. In a world where pumpkin may just overthrow the gastric tyranny of bacon worship
, these beans could be the tipping point toward regaining some sanity.
These little, round white beans add creamy richness and thicken up (without a touch of dairy) pumpkin bisque, the little black dress of cool-weather soups. I wouldn't call the flavor "meaty," but it's soothing and just the thing for rapidly cooling fall nights. Leeks add further body, and a touch of smoked salt (found mine at Trader Joe's — it's that trendy) brings home the almost-bacon. No smoked salt in your pantry? Try adding ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke.
This is a lazy soup because I didn't feel like browning the vegetables before adding the liquid; I just threw (almost) everything into the pot and let it go to town. I'm crazy about the aroma of simmering beans with plenty of garlic and bay leaves, the ideal home fragrance when I'm browsing through the Internet, cookbooks, or comic books, or playing a video game. Once cooked to creamy perfection, I add a drizzle of good, fragrant olive oil to taste on top of each serving. A little goes a long way, so you can pull out all the stops and use the fancy stuff here.
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Lazybones Pumpkin Bean Soup
Serves 4 to 6
Any white bean can be used (such as more common navy or cannellini), but you'll miss out on the "bone" of this soup! I keep the salt amount fast and loose; use a little less if you're using vegetable broth, especially if it's made from bouillon cubes.
Be patient when cooking beans from scratch. Let them simmer until very creamy, and stir in more water if the broth is too thick. Like all bean soups, this will taste even better the next day. For variety, stir in diced tomatoes or finely chopped dill or basil during the final 5 minutes of the simmer.
For a chunky (rather than smooth) consistency, remove only a cup or two of the soup, puree in a blender, and stir back into the pot.
1 cup dried marrow beans
5 cups water or vegetable broth
6 cloves peeled garlic, finely minced
1 large leek, ends trimmed, cleaned, and chopped into ½-inch-wide pieces
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons smoked salt or sea salt (use 1 teaspoon or less if using veggie broth)
1½ pounds pumpkin or sweet winter squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil
- In a mixing bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water and soak overnight. Or soak them in the morning before leaving for work. When you wake up (or get home), drain and rinse the beans.
- In a big soup pot, combine the beans, water/broth, garlic, leek, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and salt (using less if the broth is salted). Bring to a rolling boil for 3 minutes over high heat; I skim off some of the bigger puffs of foam, but if you're truly lazy, just stir them back in. Turn heat down to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for 70 to 85 minutes until beans are very tender and creamy. Test by removing a bean, cool slightly, and crush in your mouth; it should feel mushy, not gritty.
- If you desire a more brothy soup, stir in up to 1½ cups of additional water or broth. Taste the broth; add more salt if necessary. Stir in the pumpkin, increase the heat to medium high, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Season the soup to taste with lots of freshly ground pepper and fresh lemon juice. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion and puree the entire pot of soup as smooth as you like. Ladle warm soup into wide, deep serving bowls, and drizzle with good-quality olive oil. Serve with rustic crackers and celebrate your lazy bones.