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Pantry Soup: Making soup is mainly a method. I can teach you that method. Go!
Pantry Soup: Ham, Navy Beans, Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach
Sometimes, I just feel the urge to make a nourishing soup with whatever I have on hand.
Last week I cooked a big ham which seemed to grow rather than diminish, as I used it in a lot of iterations.
But once it was down to the bone with just a bit of meat clinging to it, there was nothing to do but make soup.
The dogs were happy. I first simply simmered that bone in water and gave the dogs the bones to gnaw on. The ham water made an excellent beginning to the soup. Chopped up about a cup of ham and there you go.
I didn’t want to make a trip to the store, so I began building that soup with whatever I had on hand: canned tomatoes and navy beans. Fresh new potatoes, spinach, onions and garlic. Some straggly parsley from the garden – literally on its last legs, and some basil that has seen better days.
I just built it from the bottom up, and let the flavors grow and develop. Pretty damn good I’ll tell you. Made a pan of cornbread – thank you Jiffy – to go with and there you go. Lunches for me and a couple friends for two or three days.
This recipe is more a technique lesson than anything else. Start by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil, then add the cooked ham, potato slices. Once that has turned golden and meltingly delicious, add the soup ingredients: broth, beans, tomatoes you took from a can.
As you go, taste and see what you think it needs. Learn to really roll this around on your tongue. Remember the golden rule of cooking. There are four basic flavors to build and balance: bitter, salty, sour, sweet.
So where do you get those elements in this soup? Bitter spinach, sea salt, a shot of lemon juice or vinegar, sweet-sour tomatoes. You get the idea.
1 ham bone cooked in 6-8 cups of water until it falls off the bone
3 tablespoons Tunisian extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
6 or so garlic cloves, smashed
4 to 6 new potatoes, sliced thin
1 cup or so chopped ham
1 28-ounce can Italian chopped tomatoes and juice
2 14-1/2 ounce cans white Navy beans and juice
6 cups broth (either from the ham or chicken broth)
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (about 8 ounces)
Parsley and basil from the garden (about ½ cup)
Shot of fresh lemon juice or good vinegar
Cook ham bone in water until it falls off the bone – at least an hour.
Then, in a large stew pot begin adding and sautéing the vegetables one at a time in olive oil: onion, garlic, potatoes. Once the vegetables are soft and golden add the ham and the liquid ingredients: chopped tomatoes, Navy beans and juice, broth, parsley and basil, spinach, lemon juice or vinegar.
Taste as you go along and adjust seasonings. A shot of Worcestershire is good if you’ve got it. A cup of leftover coffee from breakfast gives the soup a good solid foundation.
Things you can add if you have them, a cup or so of pasta – elbows are good, maybe some rice. This soup is made adlib from what you have on hand. The main idea is to taste as you go along.
Once you have added all the ingredients, let the soup simmer about an hour. Serve with corn bread. Yum.