As much as I try to give precise proportions and instructions with these recipes to ensure consistent results, I often use the “handful of this, pinch of that, and another handful of this” method in my own kitchen. Granted, that became more successful after years of experience and several “experiments” that didn’t work out so well, but even the failures helped me think about what I might try the next time to make something better. All this to say, if you love to cook (or don’t really love it but do it anyway to feed yourself and your people) don’t be afraid to take some risks. Every once in a while, connect with your inner primitive self and be like ancient peoples (yes, even more ancient than me) who had no recipe books or measuring cups. Let that creativity flow! Throw together some ingredients you like with a meat or vegetable that’s totally new to you. Or try cooking a familiar food in a different way—bake or grill instead of frying or vice versa. Substitute an herb or spice you like for one you’re not so fond of (for instance, cilantro haters may want to use parsley or lemon basil in the recipe below). You get the idea. Be flexible while creating so if what you’ve envisioned isn’t exactly what’s happening, you can switch course midstream and perhaps end up with a very tasty, nutritious soup from what started out as a new twist on pinto beans. Actually, that’s exactly how the recipe below came to be. I used about 3 handfuls of most ingredients to keep it as simple as possible—hence, the name 3 Handfuls Bean Soup (sounds kind of cool and primitive, too). Serve it with fresh corn bread or Cheesy Ranch Sesame Bread.
3 Handfuls Bean Soup
- 3 large handfuls dried pinto beans (or other beans you like), rinsed thoroughly
- 3 to 4 cups of spring or purified water
- 3 large handfuls chopped onion
- 3 handfuls fresh chopped tomato (Try growing your own. eGardenSeed.com offers many varieties of organic heirloom seeds and great customer service.)
- 3 small handfuls chopped celery
- 3 small dried red chiles (1 to 2 if your people walk on the mild side)
- 3 small bay leaves
- 3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 small handfuls fresh chopped cilantro (Grow it—yum!)
Putting it all together
Squarely in the category of Slow Food, this recipe takes about two days to make, but actual prep time is only about 20 minutes. Father Time and Sister Crockpot do the rest.
Place three large handfuls of dried beans into a good-sized glass bowl and cover with spring water—at least 2” higher than the beans. Cover and let soak for 24 hours. If the weather is hot, you may want to refrigerate them to prevent fermentation; otherwise, just leave them on your counter. (You can also use a quick-soak method if you want to speed things up—Google it.) Drain and rinse the beans in a colander, then pour them into the Crockpot. Add the onion, tomatoes, chiles, bay leaves, and 3 cups of chicken stock. Cook on low for about 18 hours. About half way through cooking, stir the beans gently and decide if you want to add the last cup of stock to achieve the desired soupiness. Cover and finish simmering. Remove the chiles and bay leaves (or leave them in for a good joke). A few minutes before serving, stir in the chopped, fresh cilantro—you can also use some for garnish.
Serves 4 to 5 as a main dish.