Scarlet Runner Bean Soup with Vegetables

I love beans.  I always have.  Although you might catch me sampling the piquant flavors of a great baked beans recipe at a barbeque, I’m more of a straight bean sampler.  Someone who enjoys the texture and taste of a big pot of beans without too many other flavors interfering with that of the bean — not all beans, but most, and I’ve sampled quite a few.

I’m always on the look out for ingredients I’ve read about or wanted to try, and when I spot one in the market, it does go in the basket.  There are no particular plans for its use, but I know there will be at some point in time.  This does cause problems in my pantry at times, but at others, it comes in quite handy.

Like now.

Beans are one of those thrifty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals that is also very good for you.  And since everyone seems to be thinking about health after the sweet laden holidays, and perhaps trying to recover from the sticker shock as well, beans are perfect.

I swear my shopping cart left skid marks on the floor when I saw the package of heirloom scarlet runner beans.  They were enormous and mottled in color, and until that point in time, I’d only imagined them in full summery scarlet bloom growing chaotically on a picket fence — like sweet peas without the varied pastel colors.  I swear I didn’t know the plant actually produced beans that could be eaten, but I’ve never been much of a vegetable gardener, unfortunately.

The package didn’t appear to hold that many beans, so I didn’t hesitate to prepare the entire bag for the three of us.  Meatless Monday has turned into meatless Tuesday and Wednesday lunch, and yes, there is still enough to share.

Definitely cost effective, but also full of nutrients, like vitamin B-17 which is believed to be a cancer-fighter.  They’re low in saturated fat, and can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  It really is true that they’re good for your heart just like that ditty goes.

And then there were those rutabagas…

 Scarlet Runner Bean Soup with Vegetables


12 oz. dried scarlet runner beans
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 lg. brown onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
1 leek, white & light green parts only, sliced and rinsed well
3 rutabagas, peeled and cubed
1/2 heat cabbage, sliced
1 c. cooked white rice optional


  1. The night before, soak the beans in water making sure they’re covered by 1-2 inches.  The next day about 4 hours before serving, drain the soaking water, then refill the pot to cover the beans, again by at least 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook until beans are tender, about 3 hours.  If necessary, add more water during cooking time to keep beans covered by one inch.
  2. Taste test the beans to make sure they’re tender before removing them from the heat, and draining them.  Reserve the bean broth and place beans in a bowl to set aside.
  3. In the same pot the beans cooked in, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and stir occasionally until soft and just beginning to brown.  Add the garlic, herbs, and salt, mixing well, and continue cooking for and additional 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add 4 c. of hot water, stirring to scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil.  Add the rutabagas and leek to the mix and continue to cook at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Taste to correct seasoning and add salt if necessary.
  5. Return the beans to the mixture and 2 c. of the reserved bean broth.  Place the sliced cabbage over the mixture and put a lid on the pot to allow the cabbage to cook, about 10 minutes.  Stir the cabbage into the mixture when it’s softened, and if necessary, add more bean broth to achieve the consistency you desire.
  6. Serve really hot with some shaved Parmesan or a sprinkle of feta.  On the second night, add a salad.  For lunch the next day, sprinkle on some habanero sauce.  Mmmm….

Recipe Notes:

  • This Scarlet Runner Bean Soup with Vegetables recipe was adapted from Alice Water’s “Winter Minestrone” which she adapted from a recipe in The Art of Simple Food. Her recipe uses cannellini beans and potatoes with turnips.
  • These are some seriously tough beans!  Even after the over night soak, they needed to cook forever!  Definitely a candidate for a pressure cooker if you have one.
  • When I soak beans overnight I do so in cold water.  If I want to speed things up a bit, I bring the beans to a boil, and then let them soak.  I think these beans needed the heat and boil and then an overnight soak.
  • When the beans were cooking, I had to add quite a bit of water during the day.  I don’t have an exact quantity, but would estimate about 4-5 cups of water or more.  I was surprised.
  • The bean broth is very dark but flavorful.  Make sure it’s seasoned properly or you’ll be treated to something fairly bland.
  • My husband liked it, but my 16-year-old wasn’t thrilled.  He had a bowl two nights in a row, though, so he gets credit for that.  He said the texture of the beans wasn’t great, but I think it’s because they still may not have been completely done.
  • I’m curious about scarlet runner beans now and am looking for different recipes.  I’m thinking tomatoes would be excellent, and chard.  Let me know if you have a good one, and don’t forget to eat your beans!  Your body will thank you years from now, and your wallet will thank you now.
  • This is a pleasant soup that many flavors can be tasted in.  The rutabagas provide a bit of sweetness which is delicious.
  • Toward the end of the cooking time, I included a cup of cooked rice I had in the fridge.  My son likes rice, and although it didn’t do anything to take away from the dish, it didn’t especially add anything, either.  Talk about taking thrifty over the edge.
  • Plan for the future:  Cook the beans until tender, reduce the quantity for the soup and freeze the rest for future use and experimentation.