The Comfort of Cooking (Beans) in Uncertain Times

When I look into my pantry and see colorful dry beans, lentils, grains and spices I’m comforted. When I find frozen blueberries and salmon, extra butter, stock and bread in the freezer I feel lucky beyond compare.

 

I’m a bit of a homebody and we all know how much I love beans so the advice being dished out in these uncertain times–stay home, cook beans, skip the grocery store if possible–makes me feel useful. If I can cook for people and share all those beans I stock, I’m delighted to do so.

 

Whether or not my immediate community will need to take more stringent precautions, I’ve been thinking about the resilience and also the joy and small pleasures and daily comforts that making and sharing meals gives us. Caring for ourselves and each other, one pot of beans at a time seems like a good place to start today.

 

Leek, Cabbage & White Bean Soup with Herb Stems (yes, they made this soup so darn good!)

 

I buy a bunch of cilantro and parsley every week (unless I have enough parsley in my garden) and when I’m in a hurry I twist off however many leaves I want from the bunch for whatever it is I’m making. Eventually I’m left with a bunch of stems and a few straggling leaves. I used an entire bunch of parsley and cilantro stems (finely chopped) in this soup and I think it’s what made it particularly good. So use those stems! I’m sure they’d be good in most any soup, just chop finely.

 

This makes a lot of soup and it is even better the next day or the next.

 

You can also serve it over toasted bread rubbed with garlic.

 

Serves 6+

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large leeks, trimmed, carefully washed and cut into thin half rounds

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh or dried sage

Lots of parsley and/or cilantro stems, washed and finely chopped (see headnote)

1 small savoy or regular green cabbage, chopped (about 10 cups worth)

1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper

3 cups cooked/canned white beans and 3 cups bean cooking liquid if you cooked your beans or 3 -4 cups vegetable broth or water

1 teaspoon salt, more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for serving

 

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leeks, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and sage and saute/braise for 10-15 minutes until everything is softening and beginning to brown. The vegetables will give off some liquid so it will be stewing more than sauteing.  Add the herb stems and hot pepper and salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the beans, bean cooking liquid/broth and cabbage and bring to a simmer. If it looks too thick add a bit more water or broth. Simmer for 10 minutes to soften cabbage and marry the flavors. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper and more hot pepper if you’d like. Serve hot or warm with plenty of olive oil drizzled over.  This keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days and freezes well.

 

Serve over toasted bread rubbed with garlic if you’d like or with an hardboiled egg.