My husband Randy has traveled for work ever since I have known him. When we first met, his trips were few and far between and I was grateful for that. When we moved to London, work trips were much more common which I was also grateful for because I got to go along to places like Paris, Tallinn, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Tel Aviv. These days he is traveling more than ever before and I’m not grateful at all. Just in the last six months he has gone to New York 5 times, Dallas, Atlanta, London and Dublin, San Francisco 3 times, Cannes and Paris, Chicago, Cincinnati, and D.C. Over the summer, he traveled for 9 weeks in a row.
Having him gone is hard on our family. The boys don’t understand why Daddy is on an airplane again. Running the household and caring for the boys falls squarely on my shoulders. I miss him when he is gone. I try to keep busy with friends and family but it does get lonely. The travel is hard on him too. I think in the very beginning it seemed exciting to him. Going to interesting cities, meeting interesting people, sleeping in a different hotel room each time – 10 years ago that was all cool. Now it’s a lot of jet lag, sleepless nights in strange beds, delays in airports, and unhealthy food.
Randy is lucky in that he is going to dynamic cities with terrific restaurants. But the fact remains that eating out all the time is not very healthy. Just as I crave steamed broccoli and salad whenever I come home from vacation, Randy craves my food. Clean, healthy, low in fat, and seasonal. I am always happy to cook for him but never more so than when we are reunited after a long trip. I usually don’t put that much effort into cooking when he is gone and I am happy to get back to the dinners we enjoy together and the time spent in front of the stove.
I came up with this soup after a trip the farmers market revealed that we are once again in fresh bean season. I treasure this very fleeting time in the produce world. There are several farmers that have beans in their pods at their stalls, but my very favorite one sells boxes of fresh beans already shelled. What are they? These are the beans that most of the year we all buy dried – or even canned. Here they are fresh. Actually, the ones that I like best, the cranberry bean, is very hard to find dried and basically impossible to find canned. The fresh ones still need to be cooked, but there is not pre-soak required and they cook up in about 20 minutes instead of the 1-2 hours required by most dried beans.
In addition to the convenience and less time on the stove, the flavor and texture is unlike any dried bean you will ever encounter. They are incredibly plump with a delectable creaminess and a subtle earthy flavor. I often find beans to just be starchy but that word doesn’t even come to mind with the fresh beauties. We only have them in our markets for a month or so, but each year I buy a lot of them and store them in my freezer. They can be added to things like soup or stew without even being thawed which makes them incredibly useful. If you aren’t able to get your hands on some of these beauties, feel free to your favorite canned or dried bean for this simple, rustic, and hearty homecoming soup.
If you are going to use dried beans, I would cook them first and add them as directed in the recipe below. If you are going to use canned beans, I would add them about 10 minutes before you are going to serve the soup so they don’t get too mushy. A cannelini or other white bean would make a fine substitute. I like my soup very thick but if you like yours brothier, add another cup or so of water.
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 large celery stalk, diced
12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ pint of cherry tomates, halved if large
1 bay leaf
1 cup farro
10 ounces fresh cranberry beans
5 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
Place a large soup pot over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté for about 6 minutes, until the carrots have lost their crunch, then sprinkle in the sage, thyme, and smoked paprika. Stir for two minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Add the farro and cranberry beans. Give it a good stir, then pour in the water. Add another pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the bay leaf and turn up the heat to high until the mixture boils.
Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are soft and the farro is cooked through but still retains a bite, about 20 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.