White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

I finally made the white bean and roasted garlic soup. This involved a couple of "firsts" for me. For one thing, I'd never made beans before. Sure, I eat beans all the time, but I'd never actually bought the bag, soaked the beans, and boiled them before. I always use canned. The whole process seemed complicated and intimidating, and you have to know in advance that you're going to need that kind of bean? No thanks.

Well, lately my cooking style has changed a lot. Rather than deciding I want to make something and going out and buying ingredients for it, I'm much more likely to stock staples -- things like rice, pasta, and vegetable broth -- and decide what I want to make based on what looks good at the grocery store or what I have on hand. The summer salad I posted a few weeks ago was born of the fact that, even though they're not in season, I spotted some beautiful strawberries that were just begging to be consumed. In this case, I had a bag of great northern beans left over from making the king cake, where I bought the entire bag of beans just to hide one in that monstrous confection. I decided I'd give it a go and see what I could do with them, so I grabbed my cookbooks and landed on this amazing soup recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

The process of soaking and cooking the beans could not have been easier. Shout out to my mom for all her advice, because she's awesome. I soaked the beans overnight, then I dumped them in a pot with a bunch of water, salt, pepper, some celery sticks, and about a fourth of an onion just to give them a little flavor. If I were eating them on their own instead of using them in a recipe I probably would have used vegetable broth instead of water. I kept them on a low boil for a couple of hours until they felt and tasted like beans. That's it. Then I divided them into tupperwares and froze what I wasn't going to need right away. I think I can easily do this every couple of weeks, and then I'll always have some beans on hand that I can thaw out and use.

The recipe also involed another first: roasting garlic. This, also, was surprisingly easy. I cut off the tops of the heads to expose the cloves and set them on a cookie sheet. I sprayed them with oil and baked them about 40 minutes at 350. That's literally all it takes. Veganomicon suggests wrapping them in foil, but I didn't and they turned out fine.

The soup itself was also pretty simple. Beans, onion, vegetable broth, fresh sage leaves, salt and pepper, a bay leaf, and some celery seed which I substituted for the fennel seed that the recipe called for. I boiled all that for a bit, added the roasted garlic, pureed it with the immersion blender, and squeezed in half a lemon. While everyone is nuts over immersion blenders, I think for pureed soups I prefer the regular blender just because I like the supercreamy texture. This one was nice a little chunky, however, because it sort of had a rustic edge to it. The little croutons are just a sliced hard baguette that I brushed with oil and stuck in the oven. They made awesome dippers.

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