I’ve been on a hearty stews kick, a reasonable trend given the bitter cold of late. Yet every now and then I lose the patience needed for preparing these dishes, wanting a dish that can pack just as much flavor for a fraction of the time. Though there is really no substitute for time, there are quality shortcuts that mirror the tastes of the more time-consuming varieties. Enter this beauty – ready in under 30 minutes, even you may be fooled into thinking this Cajun 15-Bean Soup took hours to cook.
This recipe was probably one of the first dishes I ever made on my own – little history fact, my culinary interests weren’t realized until my second year of college. Prior to then, pre-prepared dinners and the microwave were my specialty (commence moment of shock). When I went vegetarian, I realized that cheese sandwiches just weren’t going to cut it, so cooking became a means of survival. My mom introduced me to this bean mix, and the recipe included here is the product of multiple trials. This variegated collection is packed with nutrients, and is SO easy to prepare. You can essentially add anything, from sausage to saffron.
The recipe on the back of the package calls for a ham hock (and normally includes a spice packet, which I don’t use) – while I am all about that flavor, I wanted something that could be equally as flavorful for half the price. Enter this recipe’s trilogy of secret weapons – chipotle chile pepper, stewed tomatoes, and liquid smoke. Chipotle is in and of itself a unique flavor – it adds a smoky, peppery element to the soup that traditional chili powder would lack. The stewed tomatoes are key – they give off the impression of a stew that’s been simmering away for hours, a depth normally achieved by the ham hock. Most important of all three is the liquid smoke – as real smoke that has been bottled in a liquified form, it adds a great finish that perfectly masks the lack of meat. Trust me, you won’t miss the ham one bit – click HERE to see how to make this delicious soup.
For the musical pairing, I wanted to showcase this soup’s ability to achieve such a flavorful result with so few ingredients. That led me to consider piano arrangements of orchestral works – a route often taken by composers hoping to reach a wider audience without the need to organize an entire orchestra. I felt that Igor Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Petrouchka (Three Movements from Petrushka) pairs well with this recipe. Even though this piece draws on material from Stravinsky’s ballet of the same name, he was adamant that it is not a direct transcription (like the way this soup is not a direct translation of the original recipe). Stravinsky wrote this piece to give pianists the opportunity to perform his music, as well as demonstrate their technical aptitude. Given the simplicity and affordability of this recipe, I hope it too will be reached by a wider audience. I’ve included a recording of the piece by pianist
“Trois mouvements de Petrouchka,” Wikipedia.com