As the seasons begin to change, I of course commence looking forward to a new set of culinary themes, a new crop of seasonal ingredients, a different and novel mood in the kitchen. Even here in the deep south, where we are blessed with warm temperatures and summer squashes well into November, we can already taste hints of fall - a thicker layer of dew in the mornings, the occasional leaf fluttering earthwards from our flowering pear tree, lingering traces of sunrise instead of unabridged sunshine as I leave work in the morning. I was delighted to read that Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe is still preparing homemade baked beans even as spring buds emerge in Australia, for at the cusp of each fresh season I too am seized by both ardency for the dishes of the months to come and a lingering nostalgia for all the dishes of the season's close that I still have yet to prepare.
Ultimately, I follow Johanna's wise example. I blithely fix stews in the summertime, taking full advantage of the energy-efficient slow cooker, and pasta salads in winter. I tuck summer's green peas into hearty casseroles, and mince sweet potatoes for a winter-time Waldorf salad. And of course, I still welcome the first winter chill with the bubbling pots of soups the season would expect, just as I celebrate farm stand tomatoes with endless tomato basil salads in summertime. We cook seasonally... but with a mad dash of carefree stylistic abandon.
We celebrate the finale of asparagus season and the dawning of soup season... all in one glorious bowl.
Asparagus Broth with Creamed Pinto Beans
1 onion, minced
1 T light vegan marg or butter
5 cups vegetable broth
Woody stem ends from 2 bunches of asparagus (each bunch approx. 1 lb)
2 (14.5 oz) cans pinto beans, undrained
1 cup 1% milk or light soymilk (for the vegan version!)
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 T minced chives
~ In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute the onion in the vegan marg or butter until the onion is limp and translucent.
~ Pour in the vegetable broth, stir in the asparagus stems, cover, and bring to a simmer. Allow the asparagus stems to simmer for 45 minutes, until very tender.
~ Using a ladle, transfer the asparagus stems with some of the broth to a food processor, and puree until smooth, making sure to provide an outlet for the steam so your food processor won't explode. (In most average sized food processors, you'll need to do this in two batches.) Return the pureed asparagus to the remaining broth in the soup pot.
~ Place one can of pinto beans, with their liquid, into the food processor, along with a ladle of the asparagus broth, and puree until smooth.
~ Pour the pureed pinto beans, along with the remaining can of whole pinto beans, into the soup pot.
~ Stir in the milk or soymilk, parsley, and chives, season to taste with salt and pepper, and gently reheat on low.
~ Serve steaming, comfortingly warm...