One for the Cold: White & Green Beans Soup

Lucky for us, when the power went out yesterday this über-hearty two bean soup was already keeping warm in the oven. It was meant to be for dinner, but since it was already hot we had our first bowl for lunch before we sat down to our card game. Thick with potatoes, starchy great northern white beans, fresh green beans, sweet parsnips and carrots, as well as thick chunks of ham hocks, this is a meal-in-a-bowl guaranteed to chase winter (or autumn!) chill from the inside out.

Not sure when it finally stopped snowing last night — it was still snowing when I went to bed at 8:30. This morning the sky is clear as a bell and bright blue, though it's still below freezing. Surprisingly, there is little snow accumulation considering it snowed over 12 hours yesterday. All there is now is an icy mess. So, still no raking or leaf-bagging today… darn…. See how many leaves are still on the trees? There's at least another month-of-weekends worth of raking and bagging in those trees. Oh, well, it'll all have to wait for another day.

This soup is based on a recipe I first tried about a dozen years ago when we lived in Germany. Both the ingredients and method have evolved over time, but one thing that remains intact is the defining contrast of the 2 different beans and the incomparable flavor of marjoram. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is not an herb that is widely used here in the U.S. so it is something that I still associate with German cuisine. Though a close relative of oregano, marjoram has a sharper, almost pine resin, flavor that makes it quite distinctive. If you must substitute, go ahead and use oregano — your soup will taste good, but will lack the character that belies its European heritage.

For most of the last 3 years we lived in Germany, we used to have mutual language-improvement meetings with a German friend every week. In addition to helping each other with our pronunciations in the other's language, we were also free to share cultural highlights and dispel myths. One evening, I served this soup to our friend. He was surprised by how much it tasted like a soup his mother used to make, and declared it quite authentic. He used the Pfälzisch (local dialect from the Palatinate region) name for the soup, Brockelbohnensuppe. And that's still how I think of it when I make this soup.

Guten Appetit!

Inspired by a recipe from The New German Cookbook, by Jean Anderson and Hedy Würz
Serves 8-10 persons

1 lb (450g) great northern beans
2.5 qt/L cold water

Rinse and pick through beans. Soak in cold water overnight.

(If you need the beans in a hurry, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water, set pan over medium high heat and bring to boil. As soon as the water reaches a boil, remove from heat, cover and set aside for one hour to rehydrate.)

For the broth:
1 large fistful of flat-leaf parsley
2 smoked ham hocks or 1 large smoked shank
4 qts/L water
2 bay leaves
1 onion, cut in half
3 stalks celery
2 carrots, scrubbed well

Pick off leaves from parsley stems, and reserve for soup. Put parsley stems and all other ingredients in a 6 qt/L slow-cooker. Set on HIGH and leave for at least 6 hours (I usually leave it overnight while the beans are soaking, and finish the soup in the morning).

Continue Soup:
¼ lb salt pork, cut into ½-inch pieces
3-4 medium, or 2 large leeks (about 1lb/450g), sliced and rinsed well
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 lb (450g) green beans, snipped and cut into 1" pieces
½ lb (225g) red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 tsp dried thyme, or 4-5 sprigs fresh
1 TBL dried marjoram
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

Remove ham hocks/shank from broth, strain broth, and return broth to slow-cooker. Separate meat from bones and return meat to broth.

Drain beans, and add to broth. Add remaining ingredients, and set slow-cooker to LOW for 6-8 hours, or HIGH for about 3-4 hours, or until beans soften and are creamy when pressed with a fork. Alternatively, you can do this part on the stove: place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven (8qt/L or more) or stock pot and bring to boil over high heat, then lower heat to simmer and cover for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the roux.

To Finish:
4 TBL unsalted butter
4 TBL flour
parsley leaves reserved from making the broth, above

Met butter in heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add flour, and stir well to absorb butter. Turn heat down to low and cook gently, stirring often, until the roux is the color of peanut butter. This will take about 1 hour if the heat is low enough. Keep aside until needed.

When the beans test ready, remove fresh thyme stems (if using), then add roux to soup. To get every bit of the roux, you can use hot soup broth to clean the roux pan. Roughly chop parsley leaves and add to soup. Stir well to combine, and cook together 5-8 minutes to thicken soup. Taste and correct for seasoning.

Serve immediately, alone or with your favorite bread for the perfect cool weather warm-up. I think a nice hard cider is best with this — Strongbow from the U.K. if we can find it, but Hornsby's Amber is more readily available. Of course, you can't go wrong with your favorite local brew either!


Boston-style Baked Beans (via Tokyo)

Hard to believe isn't it, that these started as lily-white great Northern beans? Besides all the extra minerals, especially iron, that is packed in unsulphured (also known as "blackstrap) molasses, it also adds such a rich color to everything you cook with it: bread, cookies, Boston-style baked beans.

We've been making this recipe from The Bean Bible since 2001. We've tweaked the original recipe many times over to include more spices, especially mustard powder, and sometimes even a serrano chile or two. With a nice crusty bread, it's really a meal in itself.

When I mentioned baked beans and brown bread in an earlier post, I knew that after a 3-year absence there would be baked beans in our near future. Well, that was last week. But as I made up my shopping list and automatically added salt pork for the recipe to the list, I asked myself: Do we really needed salt pork to make this dish so tasty? Hmmm... Now, I love pork, amost meats, really, but during the last 3 years of learning from my fellow bloggers, especially those who are vegetarians or come from vegetarian traditions, I realized that you don't always need to add meat to beans and pulses to make them delicious or luscious. In fact, many of our meat-less meals during the week are meat-less beans. The key, it seemed, is developing a good base of aromatics, including generous amounts of cooking oil and toasted spices. OK, that's true of all good cooking, so what could I do to keep the flavor of baked beans true to its recipe, but without the salt pork that provides so much umami and body (by way of fat)?

It was a puzzlement...

The answer came later as I started planning for another dish — something completely unrelated: miso-marinated salmon. We had salmon (check), we had ginger (check), we had miso (*lightbulb moment*)... Yes, we had miso! Umami-packed, mineral rich, luscious miso paste! That was it — substitute miso paste for salt pork! Why not give it a try?

So I diced the onion and sauteed it, instead of leaving whole with cloves stuck in it as called for in the recipe. Also added a few cloves of garlic and a touch more of certain spices to ramp up the aromatics. As the beans cooked, I tasted to correct any seasoning, and thought the miso really hit the right spot for flavor in the beans — they were full-flavored, umami-licious and tender. But one thing bothered me. Something was missing: the rich mouthfeel that comes with beans cooked with fatty meats like salt pork — I like that! Fortunately, the fix was an easy one: add more olive oil. Yes, it's more fat, but it's monounsaturated fat which is supposed to good for your heart, so no guilt here!

A bowl of of these sweet and savory beans are winging their way across the Atlantic to sweet Simona at briciole, this month's host for My Legume Love Affair, an event celebrating the humble bean, and the brainchild of that Well-Seasoned Cook, Susan. Simona is accepting recipes for this, the 31st edition of MLLA, until the end of this month. But you can plan ahead for future events by checking out the line-up of future hosts here.

This recipe tweak all began with molasses-rich Anadama Bread, the start of my resolution to bake bread at home. Our second Anadama loaf, shaped into a braid this time, was the perfect accompaniment to these beans.

Inspired by The Bean Bible by Aliza Green
Serves 6-8 persons

1lb (455g) dried great Northern beans
4 TBL olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
1½ TBL ground mustard powder
1 TBL ground ginger
8 whole cloves, placed in teaball or wrapped in cheesecloth
1 cup (240ml/ 350g) unsulphured (aka blackstrap) molasses
1 cup (190g) raw sugar, or (200g) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60ml or 88g) shiro miso paste
2-3 TBL olive oil (optional, but recommended)

Soak beans in 2 qt/L cold water overnight. Or, bring dried beans and water to boil over high heat, then remove from heat and cover for 1 hour.

Drain rehydrated beans and add to slow-cooker with 6 cups (1½ liters) cold water. Set heat setting to HIGH. It's important NOT to add any salt at this point. If salt is added to the cooking water before the interior of the bean has started to soften, the shell with toughen and the interior will remain hard. Leave on HIGH for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, cook onions and garlic (if using) in first 4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mustard and ginger powders, stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. After beans have cooked alone for 3 hours, add aromatics to slow-cooker, along with molasses, sugar, salt, pepper, miso and remaining olive oil. Turn heat down to LOW for remaining 5 hours.

Sauce will thicken and beans will become tender when cooked through. Serve with your favorite crusty bread as a meal, or as a side dish with grilled hot dogs, brats or burgers.

For the carnivores in your life, you can quickly turn these into
Franks and Beans by topping with your favorite hot dog.


Red Wine, a Pot and TIme: Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs

It's truly amazing what time and low heat can do to hunks of meat on a bone. Not only do they tenderize, but in a slow-cooker they even caramelize fats and flesh, and intensify flavor. For the cook, beyond the initial browning much of the work is out of her hands. She's free to enjoy her day, or her guests as the case may be.

We had these for dinner on Christmas Day, a day I prefer not to cook or to cook as little as possible. We started with a breakfast of beet-pickled eggs, guava-glazed ham and breads — all prepared or purchased well in advance — for a late breakfast. A lazy day by a roaring fire followed, and an early dinner by the same fire rounded out the day. *yawn* and there was still time for a nap!

With the mushrooms cooked the day before, and the baby corn and green beans cleaned and ready to toss in a stir-fry while the rice is cooking, there was little to do or fuss about once the ribs were in the slow-cooker at 5:45am. Thirty minutes before we sat for dinner, the rice was washed and the cooker turned on (the sous chef's job); the mushrooms were re-warmed; the wok was pre-heated and veggies tossed in; the third glass of bubbly was poured for the cook; and before you know it, dinner was served. We took a vote (it was 2-0) and decided we wanted plain white rice with this, but mashed or roast potatoes, or buttered egg noodles are more traditional accompaniments.

Save your knives, you won't need them — these ribs emerge fork-tender and oh-so-succulent in their own juices. And rich, very rich. A little goes a long way.

Serves 4 persons

For the Mushrooms:
2-3 lbs of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
(pictured here are 1 lb. cremini, 8 oz. white button, and 8 oz. oyster mushrooms sauteed together
and 1 lb king oyster mushrooms sliced lengthwise and simply browned in unsalted butter)
4 oz/ unsalted butter, sliced into small pats
2 TBL dry sherry
sea salt
black pepper (optional)

You can prepare the mushrooms in advance and keep refrigerated until 30 minutes before the ribs are cooked, then re-heat in the microwave. Or begin mushrooms half an hour before the ribs are ready.

Heatt wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced mushrooms to dry pan, and allow mushrooms to brown and exude their liquid, about 5-6 minutes. Add pats of butter and sherry to skillet and allow to coat mushrooms. Season lightly. Refrigerate until needed or proceed with recipe.

For the Braise:
5 1/2 lbs (2.5kg) beef short ribs
sea salt and black pepper
4-6 TBL olive oil, 2 TBLs at a time
2 medium onions, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
3-4 bay leaves
1 TBL black peppercorns
cloves from 1 head of garlic, peeled and halved
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 finger of ginger, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
2 cups (474ml) Cabernet or other dry red wine
1 cup (240ml) low-salt beef broth

Trim ribs of fat and excess silverskin. Pat dry with paper towels, and season well with salt and ground pepper.

Drizzle first 2 TBL of oil on bottom of slow cooker. Add onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, carrots, parsnips and ginger. Cover, set heat setting to LOW.

Pre-heat large skillet over medium high heat, then add 2 TBL of oil. Place ribs — meat side down — in skillet, about 2-3 ribs at a time. Do not crowd the pan. Allow to brown well, about 5-7 minutes without fussing with them. When the ribs release easily from the pan, they are sufficiently browned and ready to turn. Turn each rib to brown another meaty side, and again leave for 3-4 minutes to brown new side. Repeat with third meaty side. As each rib finishes browning, remove from skillet and add to slow cooker, bone side down.

When all of the first batch of ribs is browned, add 1 cup of wine to the skillet, and using a wooden spoon, gently loosen the browned bits from skillet. Add the deglazing liquid to the slow cooker.

To brown each remaining batch of ribs, quickly rinse the skillet under cool water (no soap), dry and return skillet to medium high heat. Add another 2 TBL oil and repeat browning of ribs.

If 3 batches are required to brown all the ribs, use the beef broth to de-glaze the third batch. Otherwise, add beef broth to the slow cooker after the second batch.

Set timer for 4 hours. Come back in 4 hours and turn ribs over. Set timer again for 3 hours, and check again when timer rings. Meat should be fork tender and ready to slip off the bone; if not ready, allow to cook 40 minutes to 1 hour longer. (We prefer to keep the meat on the bone, but you can remove the bone now for easier eating — try to keep the meat from each rib in one piece.)

Also, if you intend to serve this with mashed potatoes or noodles and would like to keep the jus to serve over the potatoes, just strain the liquid and correct the seasoning — skip the reduction completely. If the strained jus is a bit salty for your taste, add 1tsp of balsamic or sherry vinegar to the jus and heat it to a simmer. Taste again to see if the balance is more to your liking (small quantities of vinegar help to reduce saltiness, and using mild ones such as balsamic or sherry tend not leave a vinegar flavor).

To reduce and glaze:
2-3 TBL balsamic vinegar
sea salt and black pepper, if necessary

Remove ribs to a platter. Strain remaining liquid into a wide sauce pan, and discard solids. Return ribs to slow cooker set on WARM, or keep warm in oven while you finish the glaze. Place saucepan on the stove over medium high heat and bring to a boil. When sauce is reduced by half, add vinegar and continue reducing until the sauce takes on a shine and just starts to become syrupy, then immediately remove from heat. Sauce will continue to thicken in the pan. Taste and correct seasoning.

To plate, place 1/4 mushrooms on individual plate. Top with 2-3 short ribs, and drizzle wine glaze over meat and mushrooms. Serve with your favorite vegetables, and mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Or rice.


Lamb Shanks with Preserved Lemons and Gremolata

This is something we actually made while still in Hawaii during the middle of our move. Although it takes some initial prep to trim and brown the lamb shanks, most of the cooking can be done in a slow cooker while you tend to the rest of your life. This recipe was devised to put to use two key ingredients we had in the pantry: lamb shanks and preserved lemons. This is an incredibly hearty meal better suited for cold winter months — guess we’ll have to make it again once our newest batch of preserved lemons is ready in 4 weeks.

Lemons and red wine may sound like a strange combination for braising meat, but they marry together beautifully in this dish. The recipe is adapted from one we’ve used before using fresh lemons (
original recipe). The preserved lemons keep a true lemon flavor even after long cooking, while the gremolata brightens the flavors as you savor every mouthful. We found the combination really exquisite, and this will be our go-to recipe from here on out.

Gremolata is a classic Italian garnish for osso bucco, and is just a quick mince of fresh parsley, garlic and lemon peel. This is best done just before serving to keep the flavors of the garlic and lemon peel fresh. It is an unbeatable way to brighten flavors of long-simmered stews or braised meats.

Serves 2 persons
To prepare 4 shanks, double everything except the 2 TBL oil for browning (keep same amount), and the balsamic vinegar (use 1/3 cup)

Lamb Shanks
1 large onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
3 TBL olive oil + 2 TBL olive oil for browning
2 lamb shanks
1 cup dry red wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 pieces of
preserved lemon, to equal 1 lemon
remove pulp and thinly slice rind
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pour 3 TBL. of oil into bottom of slow cooker, layer with onions and bay leaves. Turn heat on slow cooker to LOW, cover and trim lamb.

Trim lamb shanks by removing excess fat and membrane surrounding meat. Then cut (update 11/24/08:
but do not remove) the tendon that connects meat to top of the bone — it’s easier to trim the fat and membrane while the tendon is still attached, so leave the tendon for last.

Brown the shanks well in a heavy bottomed skillet, then transfer them to slow cooker as they finish browning. Pour off the fat, add garlic and cook just until garlic are fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat up to high, and immediately pour red wine into the skillet to de-glaze. Stir to bring up the browned bits in the pan. Boil for about 1 minute, then pour deglazing liquid over lamb.

Sprinkle lemons and oregano over and around shanks, then pour balsamic vinegar and diced tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover and leave on LOW for 7-8 hours or until meal is fall-off-the -bone tender. Or you can layer everything instead in a heavy dutch oven and place in the preheated oven (325F/160C) to cook for 3 hours.

Before serving, remove shanks from sauce and keep warm. Cook sauce on HIGH in slow cooker with no cover to reduce sauce while you prepare the Gremolata and polenta.

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed well and dried
Peel from one fresh lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

With a very sharp knife, finely mince parsley and place in a bowl. Combine lemon peel and sliced garlic on cutting board, and mince together. Add minced lemon-garlic to parsley and mix well. Serve with lamb shanks.

To serve, spoon creamy polenta onto plate. Place one shank over polenta, spoon sauce over lamb, and sprinkle gremolata over. Serve extra gremolata at the table.

See also:
Learning to make preserved lemons at home (all you need are lemons, coarse salt and oil. And time.)
Other recipes with preserved lemons:
Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemon & Sage and Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta (cake).


The Way of Cooking: Chicken Soup Revisited

Happy National Homemade Soup Day! Truth to tell, I didn't know such a day existed until my sis-in-law, Tra, sent us an e-card to commemorate this happy day! (Thanks for the head's-up, Tra!) We can't let an occasion like this pass, especially when there is a soup-in-waiting in the fridge as we speak.

We've touched on the healing properties of soup, especially chicken soup, earlier, and how centuries of folk wisdom is now backed by clinical study (see
Chicken Tinola post). Chicken soup is the first thing I think to make for anyone in crisis, whether it's illness, death in the family, or other emotional stress. When someone has no appetite, simply sipping some chicken soup broth can be reviving and sustaining.

Even when travelling last month, I had a chance to make chicken and vegetable soup with another sister-in-law, Angie, in Seattle on my way back to Hawaii. With the rain and damp that typifies the great Northwest of the US, and after 5 days of travelling and eating unwell, it was a luxurious comfort to sit down to a bowl of homemade soup. Angie started the soup off in the crockpot with a whole chicken, a couple of fingers of ginger, and a couple of carrots. After a night of bubbling and simmering, the chicken and vegetables were removed and the broth decanted to a shallow container to cool; then refrigerated at least 4 hours to allow the rich fat layer to congeal for easy removal. Since we used a whole chicken this time (as opposed to just chicken backs, as in the Chicken Tinola recipe), we kept the de-boned breast and thigh meat to return to the soup pot (store separate from broth).

An hour prior to dinner, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, corn, celery, green beans, kale and fun pasta shapes (we used "Shrek" pasta from a box of macaroni-and-cheese) were added to a boiling broth, along with the diced meat. With some Tafelbrotchen (water rolls) and Brezeln from the authentic Deutscher Baeckerei, Hess' Bakery, in nearby Lakewood, everyone enjoyed the hearty soup, even restaurant-critic-in-training, 5-year-old, Masato.

When my dad arrived on Oahu a couple of days after my return, we had chicken and veggie soup again to stave off any airline-borne "cooties." This time, zucchini, watercress, carrots, potatoes, corn, and whole wheat penne complemented the broth (from stewing hens) and chicken meat. Generous slabs of skillet-baked cornbread rounded out the meal. Chicken vegetable soup is as versatile as it is nutritious
you can use just about any vegetable or combination of vegetables to create a soup you will love.

Enjoy your soup today!

The Broth:
2 stewing/soup hens (about 3 lbs/1.5 kg, total weight)
OR 5-6 lbs (2.5-3kg) assorted fresh chicken bones from your butcher
OR 1 whole chicken fryer (3-3.5 lb/1.5-2kg)
1 hand of ginger, scrubbed well and sliced lengthwise (peeling is optional)
1 lb. carrots, scrubbed well and trimmed at the top and bottom (peeling is optional)
1 medium onion, scrubbed well and dark brown layers removed, halved lengthwise

The critical factor in broth-making is, of course, the bones for flavor, the skin for flavor and unctuousness, and the joints/tendons for body. You can make soup with fresh chicken carcasses alone, but not with just meat alone. Place chicken/bones, ginger, carrots and onion in 6-7quart slow-cooker, and cover with water. Set on HIGH for at least 3 hours or until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove any "scum" that rises to the surface. Turn slow-cooker setting to LOW, and leave for at least 8 hours. Turn off slow-cooker and carefully remove the chicken and all solids to a colander placed in a large soup pot. or wide cake pan. When cool, debone chicken and keep meat in separate container in fridge. Strain broth through a sieve into the same pot or pan into which the broth solids earlier drained. When broth reaches room temperature, place in a tightly covered container to store in fridge overnight.

Remove most (85%) of fat layer from the chilled broth, then return to soup pot or Dutch oven. Add diced chicken meat, 2 cups water and bring to rolling boil for at least 10 minutes before adding other ingredients.

To Finish Soup:
Add 3-4 lbs (1.5-2kg) of diced vegetables and/or shredded leaf greens as you like or according to what is in season. I try to get as many colors of the rainbow as possible into the pot, each
providing important nutrients and vitamins:

1. First choice is always to use fresh vegetables, of course. Eating what is in season and local, and preferably organic, will keep your body in tune with your environment. The good news is that many frozen vegetables, including peas, corn, squashes and leafy greens are just as nutritious frozen as they are fresh, and in many cases
especially with the corn and peas taste better flash-frozen than trucked "fresh" miles away from where they were born. So don't be shy about using frozen vegetables to supplement scarce fresh veggies out of season, but do try to get some fresh vegetables in as well.

2. Add root and other longer-cooking vegetables early on. Save leafy greens and vegetables that turn to mush (e.g., potatoes, cooked beans like red kidney or black beans, and hard squashes like kabocha) for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

3. Choose from:
Root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, turnips/rutabaga, potatoes, etc.
Green vegetables: green beans, peas, edamame, chayote, broccoli, etc.
Gold veggies/Squashes: kabocha, butternut, upo/loofah, wintermelon, corn, etc.
Cooked Beans: kidney, lima, black, navy, etc.
Leaf vegetables: spinach, kale, watercress, mustard greens, etc.
Mushrooms: button, crimini, oyster, shiitake, chanterelles, etc.

4. Add 2 cups of fully cooked small pasta shapes (optional).

5. Add seasoning to taste: sea salt, ground black pepper, and up to 1-1/2 tsp. of chervil, or herb of your choice: fresh oregano, marjoram, savory (especially nice if soup includes beans), thyme, basil.

Simmer on medium-low until vegetables are tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on what vegetables you add. Taste again to correct seasoning. Serve hot, with bread
    • and salad.

Soup with sweet potatoes (pre-cooked leftover), watercress, peas, zucchini, carrots, beans, corn and whole wheat penne (leftover).


Game Day: Portuguese Bean Soup

Rainy days on Oahu

The weather is quite dreary here this weekend and will remain so into the middle of next week, if you believe the weather guy. Our poor hibiscus looks quite weighed down by the heavy rains we got yesterday, doesn’t she?

Nevertheless, there’s a big game today at Aloha Stadium — the undefeated (11-0) University of Hawaii Warriors face off against the Washington Huskies in the last game of the regular season. The excitement on Oahu is palpable and infectious, even sweeping in sometimes-sports fans like yours truly. We casually tuned in to last week’s televised game against Boise State and then sat glued to the TV to the end. Luckily we still had Thanksgiving leftovers (ala tetrazzini) then because I was too into the game to cook.

(You can listen to today's game via the UH website here or watch on ESPN2)

This week we’re prepared with the perfect Hawaiian TV football-watching food: the venerable Portuguese bean soup. And judging by the empty Portuguese sausage shelf and dearth of ham hocks and shanks at my local supermarket yesterday, I’m guessing there are lots of soup pots bubbling away right now. This ultra-hearty spicy island classic rivals American style chili con carne in its variations and plain down-home comfort. For me the key ingredient is Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, it’s quite distinct from its European ancestor and whatever the blend of spices they use here, it’s uniquely Hawaii. And ono. When we lived in Europe, I made this soup a couple of times using sausages (chouricos) from Portugal and those were good too, but in my heart I felt like something was missing.
Our favorite Portuguese sausage

The method I use for this (and most soups) is different in that I use a slow-cooker. This will require that you start at least 48 hours before you plan to serve, if you also want to de-fat the broth (which I do), at least 36 hours if you skip the cooling process. It does take a while, but I like the fact that I’m not tied to the stove making the broth or soup. In Europe we found a slow-cooker made in the U.K. that was 220-volt, and eliminated the need for a voltage-converter for a 110 volt machine. And the multiple draining and rinsing may seem like a bother, but according to Aliza Green in "
The Bean Bible," this process, along with the parboiling, reduces the beans’ propensity to cause flatulence so skip this step at your own peril! ; P

The substitution of mustard greens for cabbage is a new thing in the evolution of this soup for us — we tried this variation in a soup we had near Hilo on the Big Island a couple of years ago. The slightly bitter green brings a nice balance to the spicy meaty soup.

Making broth for soup

Make the broth:
1 large smoked ham shank, whole
1 medium onion, peeled but left whole, or halved
4 whole cloves
4 celery heart branches, with leaves
2 large bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

Stick cloves in onion halves or whole. Place all ingredients in 5 quart or larger slow-cooker. Cover with water, at least to 4/5 of the ham shank. Set slow cooker to High and cover. After an hour or so, check and remove scum rising to the surface. When water comes to a boil, turn setting to Low and leave for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, soak 8 oz. (225g) of rinsed red kidney beans in 8 cups (2L) cool water. After 4 hours, drain the water, rinse, and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cool water. Repeat after 4 more hours.

When the broth is done, remove the ham shank and all the vegetables. Debone and shred or chop the meat, and return to broth. You can either cool the broth overnight and remove the fat in the morning, or proceed to finish the soup as is. These pictures show the cooled and defatted broth.
Broth after coolingBroth after de-fatting
If you choose to cool the soup, after de-fatting, return to slow-cooker and set on High for one hour before proceeding.

For the soup:
10 oz of Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half-moons
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups water
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1-½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium bunch Chinese mustard greens, Italian chicory, endive, or other bitter green, chopped
4 oz. (113g) dry elbow macaroni, or other small pasta shape

Drain and rinse beans. Bring 6 cups of water to boil, then add rehydrated beans and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use. Then drain, rinse and add to hot broth.
Portuguese bean soup
Mmmm, soup . . . .
Over medium heat, pan fry the sliced sausage until browned, then add to hot broth. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Turn heat to high and add water to pan and deglaze, add to broth with tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and paprika. Turn slow-cooker to Low and let cook about 4 hours. Add potatoes, carrots, stem parts of cabbage, and uncooked macaroni. Cook on Low another 1-½ to 2 hours, or until potatoes and beans are tender. (Add tender green parts of cabbage last half hour.) Correct seasoning (salt will depend on type of sausage or smoked shank/hocks used) and serve with cornbread, hawaiian sweet bread, or garlic bread.

If you want to use cooked pasta or macaroni, reduce water to 1 cup, and add cooked pasta with tender cabbage greens, in the last half-hour of cooking.

For a great step-by-step pictorial on how to make Portuguese bean soup local kine, check out Pomai’s site at The Tasty Island.

For a European take on this island favorite, see local girl Rowena cooking in Italy at
Rubber Slippers in Italy.

Update: The Warriors took it in a come-from-behind, nail-biting finish, 35-28. . .

See also
Portuguese-style pork, clam and periwinkle stew