Tag Archives: frozen vegetables

Southwestern White Bean Soup to Make on a Reluctant Spring Day

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Farmer Kev’s vegetables, frozen then thawed

Clif and I love soup, and living in Maine gives us the opportunity to eat soup nine months of the year. (I’m counting June, which is often rainy and cool.)  Soup has so many things in its favor. A bowl of soup is warm and filling and comforting. It is forgiving and lends itself well to improvisation. Soup is often low in calories and usually can be made in a slow cooker. As if all this weren’t enough, most soups are very economical to make. Yes, indeed. There is a lot to like about soup.

Thanks to Farmer Kev and his winter CSA share, I have packets and packets of frozen vegetables in my freezer. Soups are the perfect way to use frozen peppers, beans, and zucchini, and over the winter, I’ve made quite a dent in those packets.

Last week, I was in the mood for a Southwestern soup. I had everything I needed—dried white beans, Farmer Kev’s frozen vegetables, onion, garlic, spices, tomato paste, and soy sauce, which I put in many soups to give them more of that coveted umami flavor. I also had some chicken sausage and chicken broth.

I seldom use canned beans, which always taste tinny to me. I much prefer the flavor of beans I cook myself, and since I am home all day, I have ample time to soak the beans overnight and then simmer them the next morning. For this recipe, I soaked two cups of white beans, which gave me about six cups of cooked beans. ( If time is of the essence, then by all means use canned beans. The soup will still be good.)

Basically, I chopped the vegetables into small bits, browned the sausage, and threw everything, including beans and spices, into the slow cooker. By the time Clif came home from work, the house was fragrant with the smell of bubbling soup—-another point in soup’s favor that I forget to mention in my opening paragraph.

I made a huge slow cooker full of the soup, thinking I would freeze some if we grew tired of eating it. However, this didn’t happen. We gladly ate the soup for three nights—Clif always has seconds—and didn’t mind one bit.

Soup, soup, soup!

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Southwestern White Bean and Sausage Soup

Makes 9 generous servings

2 cups of water
1 (32-ounce) box of chicken broth
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of green beans, chopped small
1 cup of zucchini, chopped small
1 cup of chopped green peppers
1 medium onion, chopped small
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of salt
6 cups of white beans ( I mashed two cups to give the soup a thicker texture.)
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
Several shakes of soy sauce (Or more depending on taste)

This soup couldn’t be easier. Basically, when everything is chopped and browned, put the ingredients in a slow cooker and let them come to a simmer. On high, this soup takes about four hours. On low, seven or eight hours. When the soup has bubbled for a while, taste it to see if more spices need to be added. Serve with dollops of sour cream, or eat it plain. As you like it.

Biscuits or cornbread make a mighty good accompaniment. If I were serving this to company, I would add chopped cilantro as a garnish.

North African Ragout

IMG_7713Thanks to Farmer Kev and his winter CSA program, I have lots and lots of summer squash and zucchini in packets piled so high there is barely room for anything else in the freezer.

Accordingly, I’ve been making batches of minestrone soup, which not only uses the zucchini and squash but also frozen beans, another item from the CSA.

Minestrone soup is good. We love it, but we also love some variety, and in the nick of time, Farmer Kev sent a recipe for an Italian ragout that used squash and zucchini, along with frozen peppers, yet again another item from the CSA. The recipe involved roasting the vegetables with garlic, blending them, adding tomatoes and spices, and cooking it some more until you have a tasty ragout to serve over rice, pasta, couscous, or whatever.

As much as I love Italian dishes—they are, in fact, a favorite—with this dish my mind somehow turned to North Africa—to cumin, cinnamon, and a little smoked paprika. Chickpeas would be added after the mixture was blended, and toasted almonds on top when the ragout was served over couscous.

So out of the freezer came the squash, zucchini, and peppers and into the roaster they went with garlic and onion.

IMG_7695When they had roasted for about forty-five minutes, I blended them with an immersion blender. However, I made two mistakes: I had not cut the squash, peppers, and zukes into chunks, and I did not let the mixture cool down enough. The result was a hot, splattery mess, where the vegetables more or less had to be mashed with the blender. Next time I make this dish—and there will be a next time—I will be sure to cut everything into chunks before roasting.

IMG_7699After the vegetables were blended, I added chickpeas, the spices, and tomatoes.

IMG_7707I put the cover on the roaster and let the mixture cook in the oven for another forty-five minutes. When the ragout was steaming hot, I served it over couscous and sprinkled toasted almonds on top. The results? “Pretty darned good,” my husband said as he went back for seconds.

Yes, indeed, and somehow the ragout managed to be smooth and spicy at the same time.

Now, I know that not everyone has a freezer full of vegetables, courtesy of Farmer Kev, but I have no doubt that this recipe could be made with fresh vegetables, cut in chunks and roasted longer, until very soft. In the heat of summer, when these vegetables abound, this dish could even be made in the Crock-Pot, starting first thing in the morning, then blending and adding as the day progressed.

Next time I make this dish, I will try the Crock-Pot method, just to see how it turns out. In the meantime, we have several meals of North African ragout, and after having used so many packets of frozen vegetables, there is even room in the freezer for a couple of Ziploc bags of ragout, to be taken out on cold but busy days.

North African Ragout
Adapted from a Farmer Kev Recipe

1lb of zucchini, cut in big chunks
2lbs of yellow summer squash, cut in big chunks
1lb of sweet peppers, cut in big chunks
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, cut in big chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine all the vegetables and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast, uncovered for 45 minutes or so until the vegetables are very soft.

Remove the pan from the oven, turn the heat down to 350 degrees, and let the mixture cool. Using an immersion blender, blend vegetables to a consistency you like. (Leaving it a little chunky works just fine.)

In a medium mixing bowl combine:

1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it really hot).
2 cups of cooked chickpeas

Pour over the blended vegetables, mix to combine, cover, and return the roaster to the oven. Bake for another 45 minutes and add more spicing, if so desired.

Serve over couscous or rice. Top with roasted almonds, and pretend you are somewhere warm where the air smells of spices.