Bean, Spinach and Pickled Lemon Soup
December 7, 2009
Finally the rain has arrived and I can make a warm, rich tasty soup- the kind that warms your throat (and heart) and fills your house with rich winter aromas. What is more characteristic of winter than a hearty bean soup? This is not the Yemenite version with beans and meat, but the vegetarian version, tasty and filling with an interesting twist- the pickled lemon and fresh spinach. The real secret to this soup though is its exact texture. How do you serve it? After cooking the soup, you blend it. No, not all of it, but just part of it ( we don’t want a gerber baby soup), and you get a thick rich soup with the perfect texture without having to add heavy cream.
Pay attention- the preparation starts a day in advance with the soaking of beans in water- but if you want to cut corners you can use a bag of frozen cooked beans (800 grams, 28 oz.),and then there is no need to soak the beans, and cooking process is cut down from an hour to 20 minutes (see step 3). If you use precooked frozen beans, the amount of water goes down to 4 cups (1 liter) instead 6 cups (1.5 liters). You can replace the beans with garbanzo beans, using the same amount.
Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
- 2 cups red beans (or garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in water or one bag of precooked frozen beans, no need to defrost
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons pickled lemon, I suggest using the “Pereg” brand. Pickled lemons can be made at home or bought at Middle Eastern markets.
- 1 heaping tablespoon sugar. To neutralize the bitterness of the pickled lemon.
- 6 cups (1½ liters) water (or 4 cups, 1 liter, if using frozen beans). I prefer to use mineral water – my tap water has a very funky taste- and since the soup is based mostly on water its important that the water doesn’t have a weird taste.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent while stirring for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic- burnt garlic has a very bitter taste.
- Drain the beans, wash and drain again. Add the beans to the pot along with the pickled lemon, sugar and water and bring to a boil. Don’t add salt at this point because salt halts the cooking process of beans (or any legume).
- Reduce to a low heat, cover and cook for about an hour, until the beans are ready.
- Remove about ⅓ of the soup and blend (either in a blend or using a hand blender). Return the blended soup to the pot and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the spinach and mix until combined. Remove from heat, season as needed and serve.