It’s a fairly mild day in early October, warmer than it has been with the chilly rainy days we had last week. But the moisture has been great for the garden and the Montauk daisies are almost in full bloom.
These perennial plants are ubiquitous in Rockport, a town close to the ocean, and huge clumps of them can be seen all over town. They multiply and appear in the Fall in great profusion, a notable cousin to shasta daisies which bloom in the summertime. I bought some plants when we had a winter rental there and they are beginning to take hold in our garden this year.
Like the morning glories that we plant for their sky blue color which appear on the second floor deck on foggy mornings this time of year, these Montauk daisies bloom after flowers have virtually disappeared from neighborhood yards altogether.
For some reason, I’ve been hankering for some bean soup that I saw advertised in a Vermont Country Store catalog that came in the mail yesterday. It boasted that its canned bean soup is still served in the Senate dining room. That’s U.S. Senate, I guess. I wonder if anyone is still eating anything there since there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in the Senate these days. Anyhow, I decided to make my own bean and ham soup.
The recipes online called for boiling the beans, letting them sit (to make them less gassy) and to cook the beans with smoked ham hocks. When I looked at the package of smoked ham hocks in the grocery store, they looked rather gross with skin, bone, gristle and not much ham to speak of. They were almost black with 4-5 of them in a pack and I didn’t want to buy that many anyhow. So, for the same money, I picked up a thick slab of ham which I’ll cut in half and freeze the remainder to use in a batch of green pea soup later in the year.
The parboiled beans are now cooling on the stove. For this recipe, I will:
Cut the slab of ham into chunks and brown in unsalted butter
Take the ham out and saute a chopped vidalia onion in the ham/butter skillet along with a crushed clove of garlic
Add a couple of quarter-cut carrots and celery stalks with the onions
Tie together some sprigs of parsley and thyme from the herb pot on the back deck; add a bay leaf
Add back the beans and ham to the vegetables
Add 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 spring water to cover; add a small can of stewed tomatoes
Cook low on simmer for a couple of hours or so; add more broth/water as needed (I stored the soup in the fridge overnight and then started it simmering again the following day, adding spring water to the soup)
I decided to incorporate the ham pieces into the pureed soup rather than taking them out. When the soup cooled, I spooned all of it into the Vitamix and turned it on low. Gradually increasing the speed, it suddenly took off and turned the whole pot of vegetables, beans and ham into a coarse puree.
I put it all into a saucepan and added another cup or so of chicken broth to lighten the soup consistency a bit. I heated it up on very low heat so as not to burn the soup on the bottom. It tasted delicious. To go along with the soup, I toasted some English muffins, spread with butter and grated gruyere cheese, broiling them until golden brown and bubbly on top.