It was in the 1980s during my undergrad years at University of Maine in Orono when I had a memorable lunch at a “non-traditional” classmate’s house. We had been assigned to a small group to work on a project, the specifics of which I don’t recall. What I do remember is that the classmate who was hosting us was in her forties and had just finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with her partner which I really admired. She served us a very simple brothy bean soup that was completely vegan. It was one of the most flavorful yet basic soups I had ever had. I learned that good, filling food doesn’t have to be complex and can be affordable, even for starving students. (Admittedly that may have added to the flavor!) In any case, I still love a simple bean soup, and here is a personal recipe:
16 oz dry Navy beans
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
Optional: black pepper to taste
Rinse and check the beans for foreign objects, then add water to cover the beans and soak for six hours in a 5 to 5 1/2 quart dutch oven. Add more water until the dutch oven is halfway filled or less for a thicker broth. Turn the stove to medium high and bring to a boil and stir. Once boiling remove any bean foam and turn the heat down to low, add the salt, garlic and parsley, stir then cover.
Heat the sunflower oil in a skillet on medium high, add the carrots, celery and onions and stir for about five minutes until they are evenly coated and lightly cooked in the oil. Add the vegetables to the simmering soup and cover for about one to two hours until the beans are tender, or longer for a thicker broth, stirring occasionally.
I used all organic ingredients and it still cost less than six dollars for the pot of soup which is six servings, so about $1 a bowl! Navy beans are rich in potassium, iron and fiber. One tablespoon of sunflower oil has 28% of the RDA for vitamin E! Carrots, celery and onions are also rich in vitamins and minerals. As I will highlight in my book, The New England Diet, you can eat delicious, healthy food on a budget. However, the real reason I made this for dinner tonight is because it’s really good and good for us!