Comfort. Comfort. It's a word that conjures feelings of warmth, coziness, safety, well-being. Good feelings, happy feelings. And comfort foods are so named because they tend to elicit those same feelings. Amazing, isn't it? How a simple food can actually make us feel comforted?
We can all use a little comfort now and then, especially during trying times like these, when there is so much sadness and strife in the world, it's easy to feel small and helpless.
I guess the only thing we can do in response to the madness of the world is... to just live our lives as best we can. Help where and when we can. Reach out to those far away and those close to our hearts. And find strength in the simple joys of life: a day in the sun, a night in front of the fire, or a simple, chunky, steaming-hot pot of soup shared with family and friends.
White Bean & Ham Soup
The leftover bone from a spiral-cut ham is ideal for making this soup, assuming it has a fair amount of meat on it. But this soup is also delicious when made with a 1 lb bone-in ham steak, smoked ham hocks, or even smoked turkey legs. This soup freezes and reheats beautifully.
1 lb bag dried white beans (I used Northern beans)
8 cups water
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
5-6 large carrots, diced in large chunks (about 2 cups)
5-6 celery stalks, diced in large chunks (including leaves; about 2 cups)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
8 cups water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon ketchup (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large ham bone with meat
Rinse and sort beans; drain. Add beans with water to a large pot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once beans boil, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for one hour. (Alternatively, cover rinsed and sorted beans with cold water, cover, and let sit 8 hours over overnight.) Drain beans, discard water and wipe pot clean.
Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, celery and garlic, and sweat until onion is just translucent, 5-10 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients to the pot. Stir, increase heat, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender.
Remove ham bone and large chunks of meat to a platter. Cut meat off bone and into bite-sized pieces; set aside. Ladle about a third of the soup, a few cups at a time, into a blender. Blend until smooth and return to pot with the rest of the soup. Add ham back into the pot. Taste and add additional salt/pepper if needed.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
* You know, with all the terrible, heart-wrenching events of the last couple weeks, it seems a little silly to be writing about recipes and cooking. On the other hand, I hesitated to broach the subject of the recent disasters at all on this blog, because for me, my blog is a happy place. A place where fun, delicious, mostly carefree things happen. A place of comfort. So I hope you will understand if I continue to focus my blog on the simple pleasures of food and travel, even while our world faces what seems like insurmountable challenges. At the same time, I will be focusing privately on some of the organizations our family supports:
I hope you will consider giving whatever you can to the charity of your choice, so that the people of Haiti may find a little comfort in the face of so much tragedy. Even a small donation can help a lot. xo, Dawn