The introduction to this glorious soup should start with an introduction to my uncle Brian and aunt Liz. They are runners, scientists, urban farmers, yogis, cat whisperers, and cooks. They’ve been known to move to China and Korea to teach English. They work tirelessly to restore the creek by their home* to health. They’ve collected water in rain barrels decades longer than your ironically bearded neighbor has, and they do things like compost and march for clean energy because everyone should do those things. On top of all this, they find time to fearlessly reinvent their careers and go see St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club. They’re that cool.
So now you know a bit about the brilliantly kaleidoscopic lives that inhabit the sunny kitchen full of great conversation where my uncle Brian threw together this soup the last time we visited. The soup is as healthy and vibrant as Liz and he. “Oh, it’s just got a little of everything in it,” Brian humbly explained as Dave and I poured bowls of the stuff into our gaping faces. If we could have done keg stands over the stockpot, we would have. My sweet mama had come up that weekend to visit and she loved the soup- so did my 20-month-old curly-topped nephew! It’s a crowd-pleaser.
I emailed Brian asking how to make the soup soon after and he gave me a true cook’s recipe- ingredients, ideas, tips, no measurements. The mark of a cook at home in his kitchen. I’ve included some of these notes. Behold, Brian’s Sunday Soup.
BRIAN’S SUNDAY SOUP
Adapted from Brian Parr
- 1 bag of mixed beans, soaked overnight
- eeoo (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- Spice mix (edit according to your tastes): 1/2- 1 tsp coriander, 1/2-1 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp-1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2- 1 tsp turmeric, rosemary is nice if you have a bush, cumin (but only a little as you know how it overpowers everything else)
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1 russet potato, diced
- sweet corn (sometimes)
- 5-6 carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
- 5-6 stalks celery, chopped, greens chopped and reserved
- 1/3 cup brown lentils
- 1/3 cup medium pearl barley (leave out if you’re avoiding gluten)
- 2-3 quarts low sodium vegetable stock, or 2-3 quarts water and 1 1/2 tbsp low sodium vegetable base
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, optional
- freshly ground black pepper
- a little bit of the vinegary juice form a jar of hot pepper rings adds a nice little bite!
- red cabbage, sliced into confetti for garnish
- mustard greens, sliced into confetti for garnish (super important and make all the difference. Plus, they are easy to grow and have a long season)
- your favorite hot sauce for serving
One day ahead, or before you leave for work: SOAK YOUR BEANS. Place them in a bowl or pot, cover with water to a depth of 2 inches above the beans, and let soak for 8 hours or overnight. I put my bowl of beans and water in the microwave to cat-proof while I was at work. Okay, now fast-forward, cooking show-style to: perfectly soaked beans! Rinse and drain them twice. Chop your veggies on your pretty wooden cutting board, which you should care for with food-grade mineral oil, did you know?
This soup is a very manly soup (if soups can be manly), as the recipe came from Brian and Dave made it at our house. Man Soup: for men, by men. In a large stockpot, have yo’ man heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion in eeoo in the pot, Get them to the browning stage on medium to low heat and then throw in the garlic at the end. Move the onion to the sides of the pot, create a space in the middle, and add spices to ‘dry cook.’ This gets really aromatic, sometimes to the point of burning eyes and coughing, achh, ohh, ahh, hack, hack…. As they cook on medium heat, be careful not to burn- they are quite potent!!
When your spice blend is fragrant and toasty, add the beans, russet potato, sweet potato, corn, carrots, lentils, tomatoes, and barley (you read that right- don’t add the celery!). Cover with enough water or stock to come a few inches above the veggies and beans and add vegetable base, if using. Stir the soup, raise the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2- 2 hours on low, until the beans are tender.
When the beans are tender, stir in the chopped celery. Give it a taste and add black pepper. Salt, if needed. Dip up a few bowls and top with the gorgeous, ribbony mix of red cabbage, celery greens, and mustard greens, the last of which give the soup a leafy, horseradish-like bite. You’ll be glad you did! Pass some hot sauce around. And go thank you uncle and aunt for being your uncle and aunt. It’s probably long overdue.
Thank you, Brian and Liz, for the hospitality and the memorable meal.