Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: Bean soup for the new year.
I don't know why, but it came as a surprise when Clara tried beans for the first time and liked them. I didn't grow up all that familiar with the legume family -- except for baked beans, which we had nearly once a week at school -- so maybe I somehow intuited that beans are not for children. Not so.
About a month ago, I spied a bag of plump cranberry beans at my favorite local grocer. Seduced as always by their pale pink, gently speckled bellies, I tossed them into my basket and went home to make a pot of pasta e fagioli.
A few days later, low on other options, I gave Clara some for lunch, smashing the firmer beans with the back of a spoon and stirring them into the soup. I wasn't overly optimistic, but she gulped down mouthful after mouthful, even chewing up and swallowing the beans I had left whole. She ate an even larger portion that night at dinner.
Since then, I have made a pot of bean soup every week, and Clara hasn't tired of it yet. A couple of weeks ago, I found some beautiful little white beans at the same grocer and made a simpler, more tomatoey version, without bread to thicken the soup and without the pasta (you can always throw some in later if you like). Make a big batch over the weekend, and it will see you -- and your baby -- through several meals.
Serves 6 (or 10-12 baby portions)
1 1/2 cup small white beans, rinsed
6 cups chicken stock (homemade or low sodium) or water
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 small sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
3 large sage leaves
26 ounces chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi), with their juices
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Photos by James Ransom