I love soup. Not the canned variety (generally, yuck), but homemade, slow-simmering, use up the little bits of junk you don't know what to do with soup. When I was a kid, I hated soup, but I think that was mainly because the stuff I got was bland canned soup--until my mom started making her own. Then, I couldn't get enough.
I make my own stock when I can, cooking a chicken carcass with onions and garlic and all their skins, parsley, carrots, celery (if I have it, which is rare), herbs and peppercorns. Last time I did that, I froze some.
Today, I put it to good use.
Usually my soups are OAK soups. As my mom used to say, "Once Around the Kitchen!" A little of this, a little of that. Add until it smells good. (Mom taught me to cook by smell, and I still do.) That's what I made today, but it turned out so yummy, I want to write it down, so I can do it again. So can you, if you like. Here's what I did. All measurements are very, very approximate.
Autumn Ham and Butter Bean Soup
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
about 3/4 cup sliced carrots
about 3/4 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced fully cooked ham, cut into batons (little sticks)
a bit of olive oil, and a knob of butter
about a quart of chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large bay leaf
1/2 T. Herbes de Provence
some ground pepper
a few drops of Liquid Smoke. (This stuff really is liquid smoke! I saw a show on it. Very interesting. I wanted to up the smoky flavor. It worked.)
One can butter beans, rinsed and drained.
Sautée onion, carrots and celery in oil and butter until fragrant. Sprinkle a little salt on it. Add ham and garlic, and keep cooking until you can smell the garlic.
Add everything else except the beans. I also added a few shake of Penzey's Granulated Garlic because it always adds such a mellow garlicky flavor, and really enhances the fresh garlic. You don't have to do this. But if you do, you won't regret it.
Simmer for a while. A few hours if you have the time. In the crock pot if you want. Whatever.
Just before serving, remove bay leaf and add salt and more pepper to taste. (I don't salt my stock, so add just before serving. I don't need much usually, so it's quite a low-sodium food.) Add the beans, stir to heat them up, and ladle into bowls (The beans will fall apart if you add them earlier. Home cooked beans would be firmer. I only had canned.)
Serve with yummy bread, and top with some grated, hard cheese like Parmeggiano Reggiano or Pecorino or something, if you like. We didn't tonight, but it would be tasty. I had red wine, he had a beer. Both were great with it. Serves about 4 people.