This is my favorite go to variation bean soup for those dark and snowy evenings when cozy is the operative word.
A hearty, savory bean soup with ham, orzo pasta and vegetables is a recipe I expand or keep basic based on what I have available. Here's my latest version with suggestions for a minor tweak at the end. Ok, I'll say it now. I wish I had smeared some good old Maine maple syrup on that ham slice when I was browning it. The nutmeg and cinnamon called for it. Next time, I will.
List of ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
Bag of dried beans -- (I get the standard 15 variety kind), fill pot with beans, cover with 2 in. of water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse well the next day.
1 slice ham steak
1/2 cup orzo
1 medium sweet onion diced small
3 cloves garlic super dice
Small clump of celery sliced thin
3 carrots peeled and diced medium
1 red bell pepper diced small
1 small can diced tomatoes in a can
32 oz chicken stock
1 cup spicy tomato juice
2 cups water
Spices: 1 tsp. diced pepper flakes, 2 tbsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, pinch of cinnamon, salt to taste and freshly ground pepper
Finishing touch: 1/4 c or more finely diced fresh flat parsley and fresh lemon juice.
Sear ham steak in wide high-sided pan in 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil on med high temp. so it browns on both sides. Remove from pan when done to your liking and cube ham when cooled.
Next in the same pan, add remaining olive oil and saute onion, garlic and red pepper flakes for 5-6 min. on medium temp. Then add celery, fresh red pepper diced, canned diced tomatoes, carrots and orzo to onion mix.
Add your presoaked beans to pan and stir. Add spicy tomato juice, and let it soak into the beans a few minutes.
Transfer soup mix to a tall soup pot, add chicken broth and water. Add remainder of spices and simmer on low for 3-4 hrs.
To thicken the soup, take out 1 cup of bean mixture halfway through simmer, puree and return to soup.
Brighten finished soup with a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice and some tart chopped parsley and you're set to enjoy a delicious winter soup that is creamy rich and redolent of sweet spices.
Share the warmth!