Thursday, March 1, 2012

spinach, red bean and dumpling•soup

We've had a lot of snowy and blowy weather here lately.  I could do without the wind, and the drifts that build up in the wind that I get my car stuck in.  But, I'm happy to finally be getting some good snow-- it's great for playing in, and also for looking out upon while you cook soup...

Owen loves dumplings and beans, so my spinach, red bean and dumpling soup is a hit with him.  
It's a hit with me because he can't help but ingest some spinach with his beans and dumplings.
I also like it because it's delicious. 
I've made this a Crockpot recipe because this is my favorite way to make beans these days.  If you don't want to spend all day making this, you could use a can of beans instead (BPA-free ones, of course), liquid and all.  Add a little extra water, heat up on the stove, then continue from there with the recipe, but on the stovetop.

the veggies:
-for the beans:
  • 1 cup dry small red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 9 cups water*
-for the soup:
  • 1 TBS dried rosemary, rubbed between your palms to break up a bit
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp veggie base concentrate**
  • 1 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (one or two sprigs)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • grated parmesan, for garnish
-for the dumplings:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 eggshell (both sides) full of cold water
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 to 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

the love:
-for the beans:
  1. Combine beans and water in your slow cooker, turn on high, cover and let cook for 4 to 5 hours, or until beans are tender but not mushy.  Keep an eye on the liquid level to make sure beans are covered with water at all times, and turn down the heat or add more water if needed.***
  2. If the beans are finished before you're ready to start on the soup, you can turn off the slow cooker and let the beans sit, covered, at room temperature for up to a couple of hours.  Just be sure to get your slow-cooker heating up well before you plan on cooking the dumplings.  I try to give it a good 45 minutes.
-for the soup:
  1. Make sure your beans and liquid are good and hot (keep your crockpot on high for the rest of the soup-making process), and that you've got a couple inches of liquid for adding veggies and cooking dumplings.
  2. Add the rosemary and veggie base to the beans.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions.  Saute until they become translucent, then add the garlic and saute a couple minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, add the salt, lemon juice, spinach, and basil to the soup.
  5. Add the cooked onion and garlic to the soup, along with some salt and pepper, to taste.
-for the dumplings:
  1. In a small mixing bowl or measuring pitcher, beat the egg with the water and salt.
  2. Add the baking powder and a few tablespoons of flour at a time, mixing between additions, until the mixture is something between a wet dough and a thick batter.  
  3. Drop the dumpling mixture in the hot soup, about a teaspoon at a time, helping it off the spoon with with your finger, as shown. 
  4. Cover the Crockpot and let the dumplings cook for about 10 minutes, or until they're no longer doughy in the middle.
  5. Serve topped with shredded parmesan.

* The amount of water you'll need may vary.  You might need less at lower altitudes, or more if your slow-cooker runs hot.  Don't worry about this too much-- you can always add or remove liquid later on.
**I use "Better Than Bouillon" brand.  You could also use whatever amount of bouillon cubes you'd use for about 3 cups of water, or remove some bean liquid and add a couple cups of full-strength broth.
***Like the amount of water, your bean cooking time will also vary depending on your altitude and how hot your slow-cooker runs.

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