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Thursday, January 15, 2009

navy bean, pea, and leek soup with sauerkraut


from one extreme to the other

I’ve been writing about the extraordinarily cold weather a lot lately. Yes, we were breaking records here in Alaska with our three-week cold snap. But now, we can only wish for those -15 degree temperatures… Yesterday and today we’re having 45 degree weather (a change of 60 degrees in just a couple of days!) and winds that are gusting higher than 110 mph. The roads were so perilously icy yesterday that all the schools were closed (they are still closed today), as well as the university, the air force base, and several major thoroughfares.

Unfortunately, I had to venture out early to sell my bread downtown. I didn’t mind if my customers couldn’t make it to pick up their bread, but if they DID go to pick up their bread and I wasn’t there? That would be bad. So, I left really early, and narrowly escaped four separate wrecks by creeping the 15 miles downtown at about 25 miles an hour. It was terrifying.

Meanwhile, my intrepid friend Ken was delivering all the vegetable CSA boxes yesterday morning, through the insanity that was the 50 mile drive from Palmer! Arthur is in Hawaii, that lucky fellow, so Ken has taken over the deliveries in the meantime. What a great time to be on vacation! Ken and I were both wishing we were there instead. Anyway, Ken somehow managed it, and he deserves a medal. Or at the very least, several pineapples from Hawaii when Arthur returns.

To acknowledge this incredibly lousy and much-too-warm weather, here’s a wintertime soup that will make you think of spring, with its leeks and green peas! It’s SO easy, and really delicious and unusual, too. I rummaged around in my freezer to find the sauerkraut I made last fall when the cabbage was at its peak, and the Alaskan peas I blanched and froze.

Here’s our video for how to make sauerkraut!

navy bean, pea, and leek soup with sauerkraut

I can hear you asking me, “Sauerkraut soup??” You don’t have to add the sauerkraut—the soup is good with or without it. But if you like the tang of fresh sauerkraut, I really think you’ll love this recipe. Don’t be tempted to use the shelf-stable sauerkraut in the store—use the refrigerated kind (Bubbies, for example, or Claussen). This is a very simple recipe, as long as you have vegetable stock on hand. If you don’t, it’s easy enough to whip up some basic vegetable stock . It is an adaptation of a recipe in Peter Berley’s wonderful book The Flexitarian Table. It’s a warming winter soup that, because of the leeks and peas, anticipates spring!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, about two cups, cleaned and thinly sliced, or minced onions to make up some or all of the leeks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1-2 cups cooked navy beans (or other white beans) with their liquid, if home-cooked. Make sure the beans are nice and tender.
4 cups or more basic vegetable stock
1 pound green peas, fresh or frozen
½ to 1 cup fresh (refrigerated) sauerkraut, or thawed from frozen

1. Add the oil to a large saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add the leeks and/or onions, mint and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook the leeks and onions until tender, 5 minutes or so.
2. Add the beans and four cups of bean cooking liquid and/or vegetables stock. Simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors.
3. Add the peas and cook until the peas are tender—just a couple of minutes.
4. Add the sauerkraut at the last minute, as a garnish on top of each bowl of soup. Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil if you like, and pass more sauerkraut at the table.


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