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Vegetarian white bean soup

Vegetarian white bean soup (Jeff Parker for The Boston Globe)
By Allison Boomer
Globe Correspondent / January 13, 2010

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Serves 6

This classic Greek bean soup is thick and creamy, though it contains no cream or other dairy products. The beans cook into a smooth, pleasing mixture. Use a fruity olive oil to saute the aromatic root vegetables to start the cooking process, then add white beans that have soaked overnight. (If you need to use the quick-soak method, place the beans in a pot, cover with several inches of cold water, bring to boil, turn off heat, and let the beans sit for 1 hour.) The vegetarian soup can also accommodate meat-eaters at the table; add chopped ham or crispy bacon to those bowls right before serving. The mixture is even more delicious after a night in the refrigerator. Reheat it on the stovetop, stirring in a little water if the soup seems thick. When you come in from the cold, you’ll be glad you tucked some away.

1 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern, navy, or cannellini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
4 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3-4 carrots, coarsely chopped
6 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
1. In a large bowl, combine the beans with water to cover them by several inches. Set aside at room temperature to soak overnight.

2. Drain the beans and rinse with cold water.

3. In soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften.

4. Add the beans to the pot and stir well. Pour in the water, turn up the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 hours or until the beans are very soft. Add plenty of salt and pepper near the end of cooking.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with olive oil.