p Picks and Pecks: recipe: cranberry bean soup

Sunday, August 25, 2013

recipe: cranberry bean soup


After a lot of ups and downs, I thought it made sense to return to basics. If I could rewind everything else in my life, that would be great, but this would do...

This soup is the first dish I remember preparing. When I was about 6 or 7, my grandmother would bring a basket of these beans up to the living room for me. Ironically, when I was little I was never allowed in the kitchen because my grandmother would always tell me that "it was messy", so I always did my little cooking prep upstairs.

It was my job to pop the pods open and take out the speckled beans inside. At that point, I never asked what those beans were - it took me another 20 years to figure out they were cranberry beans when I saw them in a market in Philadelphia.

Like most Chinese soups, this one only relies on a few ingredients. Most important is the salted vegetable. I don't know what its called but I suspect that it is salted, dried turnip. If you look for it in Chinese grocery store, be sure to buy the salted variety - as there is also one that is preserved in sugar.

Once the vegetables are boiled in a stock made from blanched pork bones, the leaves of the turnip are reconstituted. At this point, the beans are added and they are boiled till tender.

In the hour and a half or so that it takes me to make this soup, I'm taken back to my childhood. It's amazing how a few simple ingredients, put together with love, stay with you always.