Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Butterscotch Calypso Bean Soup

Start with a pound of cooked Butterscotch Calypso Beans. Don't drain them. Make sure they are still covered in enough water/pot liquor to move forward. To cook my beans this time around I just covered them with water, threw in 1/2 of a loosely chopped onion, and a chopped shallot. Let the whole pot simmer for 2 hours and 15 minutes and you are in business. If the water drops below the bean line, just throw in another cup or two and stir. No soaking ahead of time, and no salting until just before the beans were finished cooking. You will know if your beans are seasoned properly at this point because they will taste so good you will want to eat a whole bowl of them.

While you are cooking the beans, make the flavored oils and croutons.

Paprika oil:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon bittersweet paprika
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

In a small saucepan over medium-low gently heat the olive oil and garlic. You want the oil to get hot, but not simmer and bubble. Just when the oil starts bubbling a bit around the sides of the garlic remove the saucepan from heat and stir in both paprikas. Set aside for at least 10 or 15 minutes and let the oil infuse. Remove the garlic. I also strained the infused oil before serving using an espresso filter (I think a paper coffee filter will work just as well). You are shooting for a beautiful, deeply colored and fragrant oil that doesn't have a ton of paprika grain in it.

Cumin oil:
Toast 1 T. cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, a couple minutes over medium heat. Crush the toasted cumin with a mortar and pestle - or a spice grinder, knife or whatever you've got. Back to the skillet: add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet, let it heat up and add the crushed cumin seeds along with a few pinches of salt. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 or 15 minutes.

Cumin croutons:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut a small loaf of rye bread into crouton-sized cubes. In a medium bowl toss a couple handfuls of the rye cubes with the cumin oil until they are nicely coated. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or so - until the croutons are crisp and starting to brown.

Assembling the soup:
After letting the soup cool just a bit, puree it with a standard or immersion blender. At this point you want to assess whether your soup is too thick (mine was). I thinned mine out by stirring in a cup or two of water (a mild broth might also be nice). I also added 1/2 cup of cream to give it a slightly richer texture, flavor, and mouth feel (optional). Taste again and season if needed.

Serve with a generous drizzle of the paprika oil and a sprinkling of the cumin croutons.