Ever notice how simple foods can be extraordinarily good? Think of the way a margherita pizza makes you feel. Fresh and bursting with flavor—it delights us in its simplicity.
Now if I’d said Greek Bean Soup instead of margherita pizza, you likely would have stared at your screen saying “okay, whatever Barb” because chances are it’s not a soup that’s on your radar. But…that may change, if you open your mind to this simple and tasty soup.
I’ve been making this soup quite frequently ever since I discovered it in my Three Sisters Around the Greek Table cookbook. The ponytails love it and it is easy to make—it just takes some time to cook, and you need plan ahead and soak the beans overnight. It is a very healthy vegetarian meal and boy is it budget friendly.
This bean soup, also called Fassolada or fasolada, can be traced back to ancient Greece and is referred to in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish. Apparently ancient Greeks devoted a whole day to the celebration of fassolada. (As much as I do like the soup, a day devoted to it is way over the top. But hey, after several glasses of ouzo anything is possible.) For many Greek cooks, such as my friend Kerassia (my authority on all things Greek, whom I’ve mentioned before), fassolada is a weekly staple in their kitchen.
There are likely as many versions of this soup, as there are cooks. I’ve changed the soup extensively from the Three Sisters’ version — but I must attribute adding the potato and pureeing it with a cup of the soup to this cookbook.
Greek Bean Soup
- 1-½ cups navy beans, dried (or medium white greek beans)
- 6-½ cups water
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small potato, peeled
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1-½ cups crushed tomato sauce
- 1- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano (preferably greek)
- chopped fresh parsley
- crumbled feta cheese
- lemon wedges
- Place the beans in a bowl, cover completely with water, and let them soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add water, carrots, celery, onion, red pepper flakes, potato and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and add tomato sauce, salt and olive oil and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour (until beans are tender).
- Place potato and 1 cup of soup in a bowl and puree with hand blender until smooth. Return puree to the pot and stir.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, if required.
- Serve in bowls and sprinkle with feta, parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional).
- After talking to Kerassia, and researching the best way to cook beans, I discovered that the key to softening the beans is to not add tomato (because of the acidity) or salt until they are almost cooked.
- I replace the navy beans with medium white greek beans that I buy at a local shop here in Toronto called Ararat International Fine Foods. They are quite a bit larger than navy beans and a great option if you can find them.
- Kerassia doesn’t add the potato (and puree it with the cup of soup). You can eliminate the potato and this step if you prefer.
When time is short and the “to do” list is long, I reach for my slow cooker. Then I throw all my ingredients into the pot and set out to tackle that nagging list that just won’t leave me alone. But I’m always somewhat excited when I walk through the door at the end of the day. It is the next best thing to coming home to one of my mom’s home cooked meals . . . which incidentally is one of the many perks of having my mom stay with us every couple of months. (We’re very lucky because my mom has a wonderful, giving spirit—she’s the most generous and helpful person I know.)
One of my favourite things to make in the slow cooker is soup—especially in January. It’s a time when many of us are trying to lighten things up in the kitchen or being lured to the great outdoors for fun, family snow adventures (well, here in North America anyway). Is there any better way to soothe away the winter chills than with a piping hot bowl of nourishing soup? It just feels like home.
Here are 10 hearty, healthy and delicious soups that may just make you feel as good about yourself as walking up 19 flights of stairs two or three times a day. Some are from my trusty “tried and true” collection of soups and a few are on my “must make soon” list after discovering them on blogs I love to read.
1. Beef and Barley Soup from Karista @ Karista’s Kitchen. This was my first attempt at making Beef and Barley Soup and I’ll never eat Campbell’s again. Thanks for the great recipe Karista! My only modification was to add an extra carrot and extra tablespoon of tomato paste.
3. Fassolada (Greek Bean Soup). I’ve made this soup countless times on the stove top and in the slow cooker. The ponytails never complain when I make this soup and that is really saying something. For my post on this soup, click here.
4. Acini di Pepe with Meatballs from John @ from the Bartolini Kitchen. This is one of four soups that John has posted that are based on his mother’s homemade brodo (broth). I can’t wait to make this soup!
6. Asparagus Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese Balls. For my post on this soup, click here.
7. Chicken Leek and Corn Soup that can also be transformed into Chicken and Leek Pot Pie from Saskia @ One Equals Two. Saskia says that this soup is a hit with parents and kids alike–and I believe her!
8. Cauliflower Soup and Pecorino Puffs from Under the Blue Gum Tree. I’ve been wanting to make a cauliflower soup for a while now and so this recipe caught my eye. I’m equally excited about giving the pecorino puffs a try. I’m sure I could stop at just one puff. . . or ten!
10. Greek Lentil Soup. I made this soup on the weekend because I have a cupboard full of lentils that I need to start using. I pureed one cup of the soup to thicken it, but you could puree the entire soup if you prefer it that way. For the recipe, see below.
Greek Lentil Soup
Adapted from Three Sisters Around the Greek Table
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup brown lentils, dried
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp oregano, dried
- 1 tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- 6 cups water
- Red wine viegar, as desired
- Kalamata olives (for garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the lentils, onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
- Add the carrots celery and saute for 2 minutes further.
- Add the bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper and stir.
- Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. If the soup becomes too thick, just add some hot water.
- Discard the bay leaf before serving and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar to each bowl and garnish with olives before serving.
Keeping Your Soup Jazzy
Biscuits on the side . . . croutons on top . . . sprinkled with cheese . . . there are so many ways that I try to jazz up soup for the ponytails. I can’t wait to try these Goat Cheese and Scallions Muffins from Anne (at Uni Homemaker) or Naan Bread from Eva (at Kitchen Inspirations) with my next batch of soup. In the meantime, here’s my current favourite biscuit recipe:
Mini Cheddar Biscuits
Recipe from Cuisine Grilling Magazine
Makes 12 biscuits
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp shortening
- 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 450˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until pea-sized. Mix in cheddar, chives and parsley then stir in buttermilk.
- Knead dough on a floured surface just to incorporate. Shape into a 6” square, 1 inch thick. Cut into 12 pieces and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart; brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, 15 minutes.
Sometimes the weekend feels like a break from a busy week. Sometimes work feels like a break from the weekend. One thing is constant though . . . weeknight dinners are ALWAYS a challenge–especially on those nights where one of the girls has an after-school activity. I know that I’ve talked about this before, and I know that I’m not alone in struggling to get dinner on the table during weeknights. I think it can be a daunting task, whether you have kids or not.
I thought I’d share a few of the tips that have been helping me cope over the past few weeks, along with a few of my current favourite recipes that help keep me sane. (Okay, I guess this is a matter of opinion.)
- Cheat as often as you can . . . in the kitchen of course. Look for recipes that are an easier and faster version of your favourite time-consuming dishes. My cheater lasagna is a family favourite, so I’m sharing it with you below. To make it more weeknight-friendly, you can make the meat sauce in advance and use store-bought preshredded cheese. Another option is to follow tip #2, and make a double-batch of the meat sauce in advance and freeze them so that you have a key ingredient for this recipe on stand-by in case of emergency.
- Go big as often as you can.Cook large batches so that you can freeze the left-overs for the next week or later in the month. I find that it takes just as much effort to make a large portion of many dishes, as it does to make a small one. Here are a few of my favourite high-volume recipes:
- Use a crock pot for some of your old stand-bys. Have you tried making your favourite soup in a crock-pot? I’ve found that you can easily make your favourite soup recipe in the crock-pot without altering the recipe. The key to making it work on a weekday is to do the chopping the night before and then throw everything into the pot in the morning. Set your crock pot for low and slow, and away you go. Dinner will be waiting for you at the end of the day. Here are the soups I’ve tried in the crock pot so far:
- Tortilla Soup from Ali at A Few Stories — I made this last week and we loved it. I just didn’t add any chilis so that it wouldn’t be too spicy for the ponytails.
- My long-time favourite Split-pea Soup from Epicurious. Just made a double-batch in the crock pot without the bacon with our left-over ham from Thanksgiving; it worked beautifully — it took about 8 hours on high.
- Keep it simple. Make dishes that can be put together quickly on a week-night. Here are a few of my current favourites.
- Sloppy Joes from Betsy at bits and breadcrumbs— Actually I haven’t made this yet…but I’m planning to try it later in the week since sloppy joe’s are a regular weeknight meal for us.
- Peanut Noodles
- Shrimp and asparagus stir fry from Norma at Garden to Wok — I’ve also substituted snow peas or broccoli for the asparagus because the ponytails like these veggies better.
- Plan for your left-overs. Make something like a roast chicken on the weekend, while planning for a second meal with the left-overs. See my recent Lemon & Herb Spatchocked Chicken post for more details on this idea.
- Take at least one night off every week. Order in . . . or, if you’re on a budget, throw a frozen pizza in the oven. The thin crust pizzas are ready in 12 minutes or so . . . and they’ve saved me many times when I’ve realized that something I thought I had in the cupboard or fridge wasn’t there!
- Share your tips with friends! Please leave me a comment with one of your weeknight survival tips and I’ll continue to update this post with your ideas below, so that we can all learn from one another!
Adapted from Sandi Richard, Fixing Dinner
- 500 grams mild Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 tin 680 ml + 1/2 tin of 398 tomato sauce (plain)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp each garlic and onion powder
- 1 340 oz bag broad egg noodles
- 2 cans reduced fat cream of mushroom soup (or reduced fat cream of broccoli)
- 1 can soup filled with 1% milk
- ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook for 4 minutes, then drain and rinse with water to remove starch. Set aside.
- Brown sausage until browned, then add tomato sauce and spices (oregano, basil, parsley, garlic and onion powder).
- Whisk together soup and milk in a medium-sized bowl.
- In large lasagna pan, layer ½ soup mixture, 1/3 cooked noodles, ½ meat sauce, cheddar cheese, 1/3 cooked noodles, remaining soup mixture, remaining noodles, remaining meat sauce, then finally mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.