09 February 2009

Spicy White Bean and Collard Soup

This is a favorite recipe from my Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker cookbook; the Spicy White Bean, Sweet Potato and Collard stew. It's the soup featured on the cover of the book, and while mine never looks exactly like that one, I'm certain it tastes just as good if not better.

I used some great northern beans from an undisclosed location (I have yet find any local beans, much to my dismay). For these I tried a new bean cooking method that our friends taught us which bypasses the soaking - it's a handy thing to do when pressed for time (although, I think I still prefer beans that have been soaked). You cook the beans in boiling water for five minutes, remove from heat - drain - rinse with cold water - and then return to boiling and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. It worked well, except my beans needed a full hour to move past al dente.

My sweet potatoes were local. They have been on stand by for a while. So patient, waiting in the wings. In fact, most everything else was local too ... I cracked open a giant quart of tomatoes (canned at the five-hour canning class I took in August). It was my first jar of tomatoes to open from that class and I was very pleased with how well they turned out. I used bell peppers frozen in a mason jar (bad idea - it was impossible to squeeze the air out when I packed them and it was impossible to remove only a few pieces to cook with. But I managed with some unseemly knife work).

I used a half portion from my zip-lock of collard greens from the big freeze in October (that would be the big indoor freeze, not an outdoor one). And in addition to broth from an undisclosed location, I used some veggie broth ice cubes and tomato juice ice cubes from the freezer (brilliant!).
I also used a bit of frozen jalapeño and - when that proved to be too mild - some dried red chilies from the farm which I added hastily towards the end. So hastily, in fact, that I got my fingers all spicy and then absent-mindedly scratched my nose and ended up with two burning red blotches on my face. Classic. FYI: the dried peppers DO retain their heat, unlike the frozen jalapeño. Apart from that mis-hap, the soup was a total success that fed me for a whole week.

Spicy White Bean and Sweet Potato Stew with Collards
from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
serves 4-6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 med yellow onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 fresh hot chile, seeded and minced
1 tps peeled and grated fresh ginger
one 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices (or about two cups of your own canned tomatoes and juice!)
3 cups slow-cooked or two cans cannellini beans drained and rinsed (or great northern)
1 tsp light brown sugar or a natural sweetener (like local honey)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
3 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 cups chopped collard greens, cooked in simmering water until tender and drained

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic. Cover, and cook until softened, about five minutes.
2. Transfer the mixture to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker (or a pot on the stove-top). Add the sweet potatoes, chile, ginger, tomatoes, beans, brown sugar, allspice, cumin, bay leaves, and stock; season with salt and pepper, cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. (OR cook on the stove-top for 30 to 40 minutes.)
3. Close to serving time, stir in the cooked collard greens. Taste to adjust the seasonings, remove the bay leaves, and serve.

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