Tag Archives: celery

Ham and Bean Soup


My pantry is finally getting the attention it needs. There have been various dry goods kicking around in it that we brought from Delaware to our first apartment in Chicago (almost 5 years ago), and then a year and a half ago to our current apartment. My husband has been crying out (for years) for a purge–a cooking purge. I used a package of old soba noodles to make this amazing dish a while back, and I finally heeded his pleas regarding our stash of beans and lentils (hence this recipe as well as the next one).

The way I did it was this: I googled “great Northern beans.” And the internet told me what to make.

The internet was spot on. This is a recipe I modified from the original on Allrecipes, and after making it about a month ago for the first time, I have made it two more times–a big deal for one who is constantly drawn to new creations rather than old favorites.

It may seem intimidating to those of you who (like me) have never personally dealt with a ham hock. I mean . . . they look kinda funky. Knobbly and layered with a thick piece of . . . well, I think it’s pig skin. But you don’t have to get too close and clingy with the hock–you just toss it in some water and pretend you never nervously prodded at the solidly springy flesh part. Ugh.


Let me break it down for you: Sunday afternoon, when you get home from church (or your newspaper run, or your relaxing time sleeping in–whatever your cuppa tea is), you bang around in the cabinet and get our your big old pot. You toss in the ham hock and enough water to cover it. You turn the heat on low and . . . you walk away. You take a snooze. You watch another episode of Parenthood while your baby naps. You graze on some popcorn while gazing out the window with a blank stare. You wonder for twenty minutes if that pair of leggings really makes your butt look smaller . . . or maybe lager. Smaller. Larger. Smaller? Larger?? You know, Sunday stuff.


Around dinner time you add some beans to the boiling water and turn off the flame. Pop a cover on it and let the beans soak in their ham hock jacuzzi. At bedtime, you toss the whole pot in the fridge. And then, you have an almost-ready-to-go soup for a weeknight, like Monday or Tuesday, when you come home cranky and in need of a comforting hot bowl in your frost-bitten hands (it’s been a long, hard winter here in Chicago, folks).

On one hand, it may seem like this recipe is tons of trouble. But the long simmer of the ham hock is so worth it. I’ve made it all in 1 day, and I’ve made it over the course of 2 or 3 days–and lemme tell you, the 2-3 days really make a difference. The simplicity but depth of the soup, when given time to mature and blossom, will not disappoint even the finest gourmet.

So find yourself a lazy Sunday and let the strange-looking ham hock do its magic.



(Serves 6-8)

1 ham hock
8 + cups water
½ tsp salt
1 lb (2 cups) dry great Northern beans
3 bay leaves
4 carrots
1-2 stalks celery
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp mustard powder
1-2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 thick ham steaks
½ tsp ground white pepper

  1. Put the ham hock in a large pot and add about 8 cups of water (enough to cover the hock). Bring to a boil, then simmer as long as possible—all afternoon! (this is a great Sunday project) Add water as needed so that the ham hock is always covered.
  2. Rinse the beans and discard any broken ones.
  3. Bring the pot of water to a boil and add the beans and salt. Turn off the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour.
  4. At this point, you can refrigerate the pot overnight, or continue cooking.
  5. Finely dice the carrots, celery and onion; add them to the soup along with the bay leaves, minced garlic, mustard powder and bouillon cubes.
  6. Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add more water as needed.
  7. Remove the ham hock; save the meat on it and add it to the soup.
  8. Cube the ham steaks and add to the soup. Add the white pepper. Simmer for 30 more minutes.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10.  Serve hot, with or without biscuits! The leftovers, if the liquid is running low, are also great over rice.

This (the innards):


over rice = amazing. (Especially if you add a nice pat of butter)

Click here for printer-friendly version: Ham and Bean Soup

Simple Tomato Sauce

I love a good tomato sauce, but for some reason I rarely make my own. However, after being draw in to a tomatoey, cheese-y picture of Chicken Parmesan on Tasty Kitchen, I decided that for this decadent dish I really needed to make my own sauce.

So today the sauce, tomorrow the chicken! It’s a plan.

Adapted from this lovely recipe, this tomato sauce isn’t complicated, and packs so much more flavor than the jarred variety.  It’s delightfully thick (if that’s your thing), and so healthy! I used about 2 cups of it, and froze the rest in small bags for future use.

It just warms my heart to see the bags waiting in the freezer for the day when the spaghetti impulse hits me.


(Makes approx. 6 cups)

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 TBS butter, optional

Chop up the onion and mince the garlic.

Chop up the carrot and celery too.

Don’t worry about being precise since it will all get pureed in the end.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it’s all soft and translucent.

Add the celery, carrot, some salt and pepper.

Cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are softened.

Add the tomatoes . . .

. . . basil, and bay leaves . . .

. . . and cover with a splatter screen.

Turn down the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour. This means it’s time to put your feet up and read a good novel while the delicious scents start swirling out of your kitchen.

After the hour is up, remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning.

Add 1 TBS of butter at a time up the to the full 4 TBS, tasting in between, to round out the flavors.

Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until it’s as smooth as you want it.

Allow the sauce to cool completely and, if you’re not using it immediately, pour it into freezer bags in 1-2 cup portions. It will keep frozen for about 6 months.

Isn’t it a thing of beauty?

I took my hints on how to best photograph this sauce from the creator of the original recipe, whose pictures are just gorgeous.

Thanks for the idea and inspiration, Sweet Pea Chef!

Though we’ll be making Chicken Parmesan with this good stuff tomorrow, you can use it for so many things: to spread on a pizza, to make spaghetti, Arroz a la Cubana, lasagna, etc. Conclusion: make some homemade tomato sauce!

Click here for printer-friendly version: Simple Tomato Sauce