Winter storm Hercules was a bust, in my opinion. While my friends in Boston got hammered with a foot and a half of the powdery stuff, we’ve got a mere 7 inches here in New York: hardly Herculean amounts. All sorts of bluster and school closings and road closings and State of Emergency declarings for what was, once upon a time, simply…. winter. It is, however, very cold & blustery, with air temps in the single digits and wind chill standing at -10 degrees F. So, despite the lack of impressive snow totals, I’m happy to have this warm & satisfying white bean soup in the fridge.
Bumblebee beans, the beautiful, large, heirloom white bean from Maine, make a lovely soup: not only are they large with a smooth, silky texture, their maroon markings show through when cooked, and make for a lovely speckled appearance in a blended soup. (Because, let’s face it, a lot of blended white bean soups look like nothing so much as a bowl of paste: yummy!) The leeks give the soup a nice mellow oniony bite, while the other aromatic vegetables – carrots, celery, turnip – add a little heft and layers of flavor.
Preserved lemon, however, is the star of this show: bright, salty, funky, it takes a good bean soup and elevates into something special, and it’s easy to adjust the flavor from subtle to smack-your-face lemony on the fly. I used straight-up salt-only preserved lemons in this version, but I suspect a nicely-spiced lemon would be wonderful as well. Lemon season is upon us again, so it’s time to use up last year’s batch: you could do worse than keeping warm with a lovely bean soup.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large leek, well cleaned, trimmed and sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced (I used yellow)
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 small turnip, peeled & diced
- 1 lb dried white beans, cooked & drained (I used Bumblebee)
- 1 quart stock (I used turkey)
- 1 whole preserved lemon, with pulp, unrinsed (seeds removed), chopped into 8 pieces
- freshly ground black pepper
- chopped fresh parsley or toasted walnuts, for garnish
- In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until butter foam subsides. Add leeks, carrots, celery and turnip. Sauté until vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add beans, stock, and enough water to just cover the beans. Add preserved lemon. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans and vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender (or transferring soup in batches to a standing blender), blend soup until smooth and uniform. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding preserved lemon brine, a splash of lemon juice, and/or black pepper as desired. If necessary, simmer the soup, uncovered and stirring occasionally, to thicken to the desired consistency. Serve hot, garnished with a good handful of fresh parsley and a pinch of Aleppo pepper, or a drizzle of olive oil and toasted walnuts.
Serves 6 – 8.
- One whole preserved lemon makes for a nicely lemony soup; I don’t find it overpowering, but if you are not sure how lemony you’d like the soup, start with one-half of a lemon; you can always add more at the end. Simply allow the added preserved lemon to simmer until very soft (about 15 minutes) then blend the soup again.
- I”m not sure you even need stock for this soup, as the preserved lemon adds so much flavor: if you are out of homemade stock, you might try just using water. If using store-bought stock, choose low-sodium, or start with ¼ of a preserved lemon, lest the soup be too salty.
- I like the balance of flavors between the beans, vegetables and lemon, and I think that using the pot liquor from the beans would make the soup a little too beany. But, if you prefer more bean flavor, and a thicker broth, feel free to use the cooking liquid from your beans.
- If you prefer a somewhat chunky soup, reserve the preserved lemon until after you have partially puréed the soup, then dice peel into tiny squares prior to adding. Simmer another 15 minutes for flavors to blend. If you don’t want to blend the soup at all, the preserved lemon can be finely diced and added at the beginning.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days. Frozen for up to 6 months.