Monday, November 22, 2010

Jan Kabel's First Rate Soup

 Cranberry beans.

I encountered them at the farmer's market and since I had never seen them before, I decided - heck, why not buy 2 lbs of them!  Arriving home I searched for recipes to use my beans, but I couldn't find anything that appealed to me, and I was nervous to try to wing it with an ingredient I'd never used before.

I took my search to twitter:

@cicii3:  I can't find a good recipe for cranberry beans....can I just use them in soup?

Luckily, Reuben Kabel - (@reub) responded with a link to his mother Jan's First Rate Soup - using fresh cranberry beans. I loved the simplicity of the ingredient list....especially because I had most of the ingredients on hand in my pantry and freezer.

I decided to give it a go.  While Rafe shelled the beans, I got to work on the bacon.  That's where Jan hooked me...soup made with bacon will ALWAYS taste amazing.

I really liked this soup- it was homey and rustic and simple, but the flavors were still really complex. I was pretty sick last week, and it came in handy to sooth my sore throat, and help relive my congestion. It reminded me of a pasta fagioli that my mom used to make.

First Rate Soup
courtesy of: Jan Kabel
  • 2 lbs fresh cranberry beans, shelled (yielding 3 cups)
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 2 small (14oz) cans chicken stock
  • 1 small can diced tomato, drained
  • 1 cup Orecchiette (or other pasta)
  1. In a stockpot over medium heat, carefully render out all the fat from the bacon. Remove the browned bacon bits and set aside.
  2. Add onion, celery and sweat until translucent.
  3. Add the beans, cooked bacon, 8 cups of water and chicken stock. Once a boil is reached, lower heat to maintain a simmer for roughly 75 to 90 minutes or until the beans are tender.
  4. Add tomato and orecchiette and cook until tender, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom and burn. This may require additional water as the soup thickens.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste at the end.
I added some shredded zucchini that I had in the fridge - and halved the amount of celery because I only had 1 stalk.  I think this is a great soup to utilize what you have on-hand.  If you have some greens or other veg, I'd say dump it in.  It's a great 'anything goes base.  I reheated my soup a couple times with some shredded kale and it was yummy.

I topped the soup with a little grated Parmesan and chowed down.

Thanks Jan and Reuben! This is a great soup, and a technique I'll definitely use for ages. I loved how the pasta helped to thicken the soup, and the broth was fantastic!
What's your favorite kind of soup? What's the strangest ingredient you've ever picked up at the market?


  1. Reuben always has great recipes! My favorite soup to make is a spicy tomato, lentil and chicken sausage soup.

  2. This looks great. I love orechiette. They look like ears :)
    My fave soup is probably chowder.

  3. Way to just go for and commit to a 2 lb bag! Nice work. I've never had cranberry beans before but your soup looks awesome!

  4. Mmm.. I love how you've billed this as a versatile soup. I think soups that you can throw anything in are just the best... and of course soups with bacon cannot be beat. I've been eating chicken soup all day... trying to get over this cold or whatever it is.

    The first time I bought celeriac, I thought I was buying the weirdest thing ever.

  5. I've never cooked with cranberry beans, but this looks awesome. I love making tons and tons of soup and then freezing lots of it for later on :)

    And don't you just LOVE Twitter for all the recipe/food help it brings?! It's my best resource!


  6. I love fresh cranberry beans! I cook them up, mix in some butter, salt and fresh herbs (basil, parsley, dill are good choices) and eat them immediately.