As we were heading into the last few days before Christmas, I had the brilliant idea to make three different types of bean and grain soups. This way I would have my refrigerator loaded with healthy choices. At meal times when we are frazzled and tired, rather than snack on Christmas cookies or order pizza out, we’ll have three healthy soups that just need to be heated up. I am sure that we’ll eat more than our fair share of junk, but at least we have an easy option!
On Sunday I got out my trusty Fagor Pressure Cooker and settled in for a marathon soup-making session. Daughter is at home for the week so I am cooking for three people and I want to make things that will appeal to her too.
Garbanzo Beans and Bulgur Wheat Soup – This soup was easy to make but the garbanzo beans take a little extra time to get tender. I didn’t soak that garbanzo beans. After picking over the beans and giving them a quick rinse, I put a cup of beans in my pressure cooker with 4 cups of water. I cooked them on high pressure for one hour. They were just barely tender after an hour. To the pressure cooker I added a cup of crushed tomato, chopped onion, celery and carrot, chopped cabbage, a quarter cup of bulgur wheat and some frozen spinach. For spices, I added a bay leaf, paprika and oregano. I got the pot back up to high pressure and cooked for another 20 minutes. At the end of that time, the garbanzo beans were quite tender and the bulgur still had a little bit of chewiness.
You could make this soup on the stovetop, no pressure cooker needed, but plan on a good long cooking time for the the garbanzos. Just as above, get the beans almost tender and then add the remaining ingredients.
My recipe yielded about six cups of soup.
I rinsed out my pressure cooker and started on Soup #2
Split Pea Soup – I love split pea soup but Husband and Daughter won’t touch it. I think that I will freeze half of it…save it for later.
To my pressure cooker I added one cup of green split peas, about 2/3 cup of potatoes in small dice, chopped carrots, celery and onion. I put is some thyme and a bit of smoky paprika. I added four cups of water and set my pressure cooker on high for 45 minutes. That was probably longer than it actually needed, but I like my split peas and potatoes to be really broken down.
The soup was a little thick for my taste. And it will thicken up more in the refrigerator. Rather than thin it down right away I decided that I would just add water as needed when I was heating the soup to eat. My recipe yielded about 5 cups of soup.
I serve this with a lemon wedge and some pumpernickel bread. It is so flavorful. It seems very substantial. It is an excellent meal, lunch or dinner. I just wish I could convince Family of that!
Once again I rinsed out the pressure cooker and got started on Soup #3.
Pinto Bean Soup – this is one of my favorite soups of all times. I follow Deborah Madison’s recipe from her book Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
(one of my favorite cookbooks!).
To my pressure cooker I added 1 cup of pinto beans, 2 dried New Mexico chilies, seeded and stemmed, chopped onion and a clove of garlic, minced. I set the pressure cooker on high for one hour. At the end of the hour, I put a cup or so of the cooked beans and the chilies into the blender and pureed, along with 3 tablespoons of masa harina. I added the puree back to the pot, brought the soup to a boil (not under pressure) and cooked for about 10 minutes. The masa harina acts as a thickener and gives it that good corn-tortilla flavor. If you don’t have masa harina, just leave it out and the soup will still taste great.
The chilies that I added were not particularly hot. They added flavor but not too much heat. When I don’t have New Mexico chilies on hand I use chili powder. I would like to experiment with lot of different chilies – maybe chipotles would be good in this.
I made some Cajun Country Popcorn Rice to serve with this. The package directions called for 1 cup rice and 2 cups water. The rice ended up a little bit mushy. Next time I will cut back on the water.
I serve the pinto bean soup over rice with grated cheese and salsa.
How did my soup plan work out? I am not going to tell you that we didn’t eat some junk this week, but I will say that it was really handy to have all this soup ready in the refrigerator ready to eat.
Daughter really liked the garbanzo/bulgur soup. I served that to her a couple of times for a quick lunch along with some crackers and fresh fruit. All three of us liked the pinto bean soup. It made a quick, satisfying meal on more than one occasion. I was the sole enjoyer of the split pea soup, and I enjoyed it a lot. I still have a half batch in the freezer for next week, which will no doubt be busy too.
It took about 5 hours to get all three soups cooked, cooled and put in the refrigerator (though much of that time did not require my attention). When it was time to eat, any of the three soups could be heated up in just a few minutes either in the microwave or on the stove top.
The soup recipes could easily be doubled or halved depending on the number of people that need to be fed and their enthusiasm for soup. Using the pressure cooker cut down on the time needed for each soup but if you did it on the stove top, all three soups could cook concurrently.
All three of the soups had very different flavors. So outside of the fact that they were all “soup” they didn’t seem repititious. I think that with some imagination you could make three soups with flavors that are even more diverse. You could have a dal with Indian flavors, garbanzo beans with a North African twist, and black beans with a Caribbean taste. The sky’s the limit.
Here is one last bonus to the bean and grain soup idea: If you have even small bowl of one of these soups before you head out to a cocktail party or a family gathering, you will be much less likely to overindulge. These soups are so filling and good for you, you’ll be more likely to say “no thanks” when the bowl of queso is put in front of you!