A cold front brought rain and cool temperatures to Central Texas, and I thought it was a great time to make some soup. I’d been given a ham bone over the holidays, courtesy of my mother’s office party, one of the ones baked with honey and with plenty of meat still on the bone, and it was just the ticket.
I searched my cookbooks for a likely recipe but found nothing that quite fit the bill. What I wanted was a creamy bean soup with bits of ham, veggies and nice body and flavor, the sort of thing that would pair well with corn muffins or with grilled cheese sandwiches. My beans of choice were dry navy beans, and the various recipes that called for dried beans said to “soak overnight”. Ah, here’s a dilemma, I forgot to soak overnight. Well, overnight is about 8 hours, right? I soaked my bag of beans from 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. and thought that ought to do the trick. When I removed the lid, they’d soaked up nearly all the water and looked lovely. I drained them off and dried out my big pot.
I added about a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, and cut up an onion, 2 stalks of celery and 2 carrots. With that mixture sauteed to a nice aromatic softness, I added my beans back into the pot. In went the luscious ham bone (as I picked choice bits of ham off of it) and about 8 cups of cold water. I cranked on the heat.
Next I reviewed spices from different recipes and settled on cumin, oregano, and cracked red pepper. How much? Well, we’re making this up as we go along, but I’d say about 1/4 of a teaspoon of the cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano, and about 1/2 teaspoon of the cracked red pepper. I let the soup come to a boil, then lowered the heat to a simmer for 90 minutes.
At that point I levered the ham bone out of the soup and removed the rest of the meat. Any big chunks got chopped up and thrown back into the soup. I added a can of crushed tomatoes (about 14oz) with their juice for some richness, and then I added some fresh lime and orange juice – might as well get those partially used citruses out of the fridge. I used a whole lime and half an orange. Then I excavated a bunch of limp kale I’d bought and chopped the leaves – when they hit the water, they turned brilliant green and wilted nicely into the soup. I let all that cook for another 30 minutes, then added the final touch – the hard rind from a wedge of parmesan cheese, that melted gently into the soup, giving it incredible depth.
I whipped up a couple of ham and gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches and dinner was served! Perfect soup for cold, crummy weather.