For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Monday, February 1, 2010

SLO Winter Fuel

My family sweeps across the country…and the globe. My parents each hail from families of eight children, and they settled on half for themselves. I have three younger siblings and I'm now about to embarrass one of them. He tortured us for years with his lifelong problem of digestive disturbances—and although I'm a bit sad that he now lives halfway across the world—I admit that I don't miss the good 'ol days when we used to put him outside for a good twenty minutes to let the fresh air render him ready to come back inside the house among the living. No wonder my olfactory senses are so sensitive.

But in spite of these malodorous memories, I embrace the reminiscences of my colossal family and cherish the celebrated stories that survive to this day. How appropriate that the following ham and bean soup recipe, contributed by my Aunt Kay, ties in a delectable family recipe to one of her memories of my odorous brother. Recently I followed her directions for this mildly fiery supper and created a winter potage that is—hands down—one of the best soups I've ever tasted. This hot, savory, peppery meal is sure to warm and nourish you. Fix this for a crowd and you will be forever in their good graces (assuming everyone is blessed with good digestion).

In Kay's own words:

"The night before you make the soup, place one bag of dried white navy beans in a bowl of water—add a dash of salt and soak overnight. In the morning: Place your ham bone and ham in a large kettle. Pour one large can of chicken broth into the pot. Add 5 bay leaves, two chopped onions and 6 stalks of chopped celery. Add water to bring the water level high to the top of the pot. Add your beans after draining the soaking water. I add peppercorns, but you can add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for hours slowly until the soup broth is thick. Carefully remove the ham bone and check for any bones in the broth. Strip remaning ham from bone and add to the broth. Remove the bay leaves before serving. The key to this soup is black pepper and lots of it! Serve with crusty buttered rolls or french bread! It make enough to feed 8 people for a week (in other words, plan on freezing some).

Liz, a little family folklore to go with the bean soup recipe. Mack, Seth and Dawn once left here in a blizzard headed for Sacramento with a thermos of bean soup. They were stuck near Lake Tahoe for hours in the car with only the bean soup for fuel. We all know about Mack—it was an unfortunate food choice for others in the car."

I paired this piquant soup with a local San Luis Obispo County wine, Tobin James Ballistic 2007 Paso Robles Zinfandel. This easy drinking red (Zinfandel is their flagship varietal) yielded a smooth, buttery quality with berry undertones, and a spicy, peppery finish that played well with the black pepper theme of the soup. Very food friendly.

SLO Ham 'n Bean Soup

By Kay Gilbraith (slightly adapted with my comments)

1 pound dried white navy beans

48 oz. of chicken broth (I used reduced sodium)

2 - 3 pounds ham with bone-in (I used 5 pounds and thought it was way too much—my broth ultimately turned out a bit too salty)

1 ham bone (I left this out because I couldn't find one)

2 onions, chopped

6 stalks celery, chopped

5 bay leaves

Pepper or peppercorns to taste

You will most likely not need to add salt as the ham imparts more than enough; but, salt levels are personal. As the broth simmers, taste frequently and make necessary adjustments for your own palate preferences.

Since we're still in the midst of winter and many of us could benefit from a warm, hearty soup, I hope you'll throw these ingredients on the stove in a very BIG pot and let this slowly-simmered infusion bubble away and permeate your kitchen (mine simmered for about 2 1/2 hours before the beans met my desired softness).

This meal will truly make its way into the hearts, stomachs, and memories of your family and friends.
Delicious. No other word for it.

All Text and Photos Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

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