I’m not sure how many years ago we started the tradition of taking a long weekend trip late in January, but it’s one of my favorites. I think it all began when I figured out that the holiday presents other than clothing my husband received were rarely used, so I surprised him with a trip to Solvang one year. The next year it was Monterey, and from that point on, we tried to find somewhere to go just to get away. Sometimes the boy accompanied us, but most often, it was just the two of us. One year we may have taken a plane, and the next we’d drive. We’d talk occasionally about stretching ourselves to go somewhere we hadn’t been before — Monterey, CA is still our favorite — but the whole point of getting away is to relax, and when you’re the semi-unadventurous people we are familiarity facilitates that relaxation.
We don’t go as often as we used to since life isn’t as hectic, but this year my husband charged me with finding somewhere to go within a reasonable driving distance. I’m thinking it’s because the patio is torn up and figuring what to do with it is a far less attractive option than heading off on a Friday afternoon for anything unrelated to a DIY project. I don’t blame him.
I asked the boy what he thought, and without hesitation he mentioned Julian. You may remember me waxing over this small town early last month, and since I’d toyed with the idea of gifting my husband with a get away there before moving on to something else, my research had already been done.
We’re back now, and as much as we might have enjoyed some sign of wintery weather, there wasn’t a trace. Clear blue skies, dry air, and highs of 65 during the day welcomed us. The cabin was nestled against a mountainside beneath huge cedars, young pines in the undergrowth, and massive coastal live oaks. The persistent rush of water from a stream nearby was the only sound to be heard. We hiked, cooked a little, played cards and Yahtzee, and enjoyed the quiet, our books, and one another’s company. I took Tessa Kiros’ breathtaking book Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes which I finally treated myself to after seeing it for the first time about a year ago, and read through it over the two days.
When I open it to make one of the many wonderful recipes from now on, I’ll remember last weekend and smile.
Here’s a simple, delicious vegetable soup adapted from one of Kiros’ recipes. It’s light and full of bright, fresh flavor that will warm you through and through.
Perfect. Just like our weekend.
Vegetable Bean Soup
1 c. large lima beans, cooked
1 leek, rinsed and sliced
1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
4-5 small red potatoes, chopped
3 small carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 small butternut squash, cubed
1 bunch chard, chopped
4 whole roma tomatoes, canned
1 c. oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 handfull fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 pinches fresh oregano, chopped
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
fruity extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the lima beans ahead of time by soaking them in a pan of water overnight. Alternatively, bring the beans to a boil, turn the heat off and allow to soak for 1 hour. Drain the beans, cover them with fresh water and cook partially covered over low heat about 1 hour. When the beans are tender, remove them from the heat and drain them reserving the broth.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the vegetables. Mix everything except the olive oil and lemon in a large pot. Add 10 cups of water and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and bring the vegetables to a boil. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, partially cover with a lid and allow to cook about 1 hour. Taste and correct seasoning.
Add the cooked lima beans and 1 cup of the bean broth. If desired, with any left over lima beans (some of them are very soft after cooking) mash and stir into the soup.
Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a drizzle of good, fruity olive oil.
- I could eat this soup — or any variation of it — all week. The broth is clear, light, and very flavorful. Without the drizzle of olive oil, this is nearly fat-free, but the drizzle is worth it. That and the lemon really add a bright flavor to the soup.
- I enjoyed the lima beans in this — especially the mashed up-stir-it-into-the-broth left over limas. In fact, I could eat them by themselves. But if you don’t have the limas or the time, I know some rinsed cannellini beans would work just fine.
- If you don’t have chard, then spinach or kale would be nice, too.
- Dried mushrooms would work well instead of fresh if you don’t have a nice variety of mushrooms available. Cover them with hot water and allow to soak about 30 minutes. Drain them — reserving the broth — and chop before adding to the vegetable mix. Add the filtered broth to the soup pot.
- If you don’t have potatoes, add pasta or rice instead. Make sure it’s partially cooked before adding it to the pot about 20 minutes before the end of cooking time.
- Use the herbs you enjoy in any combination.