A cool white mist blanketed the sky this morning. Although the forecast was for sunny, warm weather, it seemed like the fog was so dense nothing would break through. But, as the day moved on, glimmers of bright orange, shards of rich reds, stalks of gold began to appear. While my eyes adjusted to the fresh daylight, I wondered what created this incredible change. What happened behind the curtain of fog earlier? Did the gods collect their paints and brushes to create a new world full of color? Disguising themselves as a band of wild turkeys, perhaps, walking with purpose across our front lawn through the neighbor’s apple orchard and on into the woods, they left behind a truly glorious day.
Fall foliage season in New England never ceases to amaze me. I love it. People come from all over the world to see what we are lucky see out our windows every autumn. This is the time of year New Englanders move indoors, start to slow down, to stack wood and build fires. The bursts of colors in the trees feel like a final gift of light before the approach of a dark, cold winter. The colors, the sound of the trees rustling in the wind, remind us—remind me—that every day is a gift to create and enjoy.
This Rich Autumn Red Bean Soup with Beef and Parmesan is the perfect first soup of the season. Tender red beans form the basis of a vegetable broth that is thickened and enriched with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The broth is smooth with a hint of salt, making it just right for the addition of golden corn kernels and tender chunks of beef. The colors, flavors and textures of this hearty soup mirror the natural elements of the season. Enjoy it with some Savory Parmesan Scones or fresh Italian bread dipped olive oil. Add a plate of local cheeses and smoked meats to the table along with a bottle of Chianti or fresh apple cider, to create a satisfying dinner for your family and guests.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
RICH AUTUMN RED BEAN SOUP WITH BEEF & PARMESAN
To prepare the beans:
- 1 cup dried red (kidney) beans*
- handful fresh oregano sprigs, rinsed
- ½ yellow onion, peeled
- 2 whole garlic cloves
To make the soup:
- olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled and chopped to large dice
- 2 carrots, peeled, rinsed and chopped to large dice
- 1 red or green pepper, rinsed, seeded and chopped to large dice
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 cup red wine
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 piece rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano*, rinsed
- fresh corn kernels from 6 ears of corn (about 2 cups kernels)
- 2 cups cooked beef, cut to large dice*
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- micro-greens or fresh oregano leaves (or both)
- freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 recipe Savory Parmesan Scones or fresh Italian bread, sliced and drizzled with olive oil
- Soak the kidney beans in a pot of water overnight or for 12 hours.*
- Drain the soaked beans and rinse.
- Place the beans in a large soup pot or slow cooker and cover generously with water. Add the fresh oregano sprigs, ½ yellow onion, garlic cloves and a dash of salt. If making on the stove, bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir, monitor and continue stirring occasionally. If making in a slow cooker, set the slow cooker to high and cover. Either way, cook until the beans are tender, about 1 to 2 hours. (Cooking time will vary depending on freshness of beans and cooking method of choice.)
- When the beans are tender, using a heat-proof utensil, remove and discard the oregano springs, onion, and garlic cloves. Keep the beans and their liquid warm and in the same pot.
- Place a large skillet on the stove top. Set heat to high. Add olive oil―just enough to coat. Heat the oil then add the chopped red onion, carrots and peppers. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic cloves and dried spices and toss with the vegetables to distribute evenly. Cook a few minutes more to bring out the aromas and flavors of the dried spices.
- Add the cooked vegetables and spices to the soup pot or slow cooker containing the cooked beans. Stir.
- Pour the red wine into the skillet where you prepared the vegetables. Bring the wine to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any cooked bits of vegetables from the bottom of the skillet and mix into the wine. Pour this mixture into the soup pot or slow cooker.
- Add the tomato paste. Stir. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Stir again. Let the soup simmer on the stove top or in the slow cooker for one to two hours, or until beans are tender to your liking. (Stir occasionally if simmering on stove top.)
- Using a heat-proof utensil, remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Scrape off any softened cheese and return it to the soup. Discard the rind. Add the corn kernels and cooked beef. Stir. Heat through. Add the salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- When ready to serve, ladle the hot soup into individual soup bowls. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves or microgreens or both. Add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with Savory Parmesan Scones or fresh Italian bread and olive oil.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese from the Parma region of Italy. It can be found in the fancy cheese section of most grocery stores.
- To make this soup vegetarian, leave out the beef. Add additional seasonal vegetables, such as slivered kale, beet greens or chunks of roasted butternut squash.
- If you do not eat beef, substitute chicken or lamb for the beef. If using chicken, consider using white beans instead of red.
- If you do not have the time to use dried beans, substitute 4 cups cooked, canned red beans. Rinse before adding to the other ingredients.
- If you do not plan to serve the soup right away, or if you have leftovers, let it cool then refrigerate or freeze in airtight containers. Reheat before serving.
- Consider serving with Fragrant Onion Rolls, Savory Parmesan Scones, Parmesan Muffins or Brown Rice Pilaf.
One Year Ago: Potato Soup with Parmesan Cheese Muffins
Two Years Ago: Savory Autumn Vegetable Turnovers with Cilantro Pesto