Leek and Butter Bean Soup with Ham

Having never worked with leeks, I was always so intrigued to hear them described as “creamy” on cooking shows (ok, mostly Top Chef).  How can an over-sized scallion be creamy?  It seems counter intuitive, against nature, and frankly, unbelievable.  Thoroughly intrigued nonetheless, I began inspecting leek recipes for one to sufficiently spark my interest.  As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of cream-based soups, the idea of using this allegedly creamy vegetable to achieve a smooth soup base was very appealing.  Plus, I’ve been dying to try out the new immersion blender my boyfriend just bought me!

pile of chopped leeks

The most common pairing I came across was leeks and potatoes.  I generally try to avoid potatoes (they aren’t South Beach friendly!) and I wasn’t happy at the idea of wasting these creamy leeks in a mess of pureed potatoes.  After reviewing a couple different leek soup recipes, I decided to venture out on my own.  The resulting creating is a hybrid of a couple different recipes, with my own added twist.  I’m proud to report that the result was utterly delicious!!

red corner up close

The potatoes have been replaced with butter beans, which, when pureed with the leeks really does give the soup a creamy consistency without the addition of any cream or butter!  Amazing!!  I wanted to have a hint of garlic but I didn’t want it to overpower the leeks, so I roasted a couple cloves of garlic before throwing them into the mix.  It provided a subtle hint of garlic without becoming a cream of garlic soup.  I also added some sliced mushrooms, which is completely optional.  If you don’t like mushrooms, leave them out.  We happen to love mushrooms around here so throwing them in simply added another layer of depth to the flavors.

cubed ham

As a hungry carnivore, I couldn’t resist throwing in some cubed ham.  The saltiness of the ham was a perfect balance to the almost sweet leeks.  Next time I will dice the ham even smaller so that it blends a bit better with the creamy consistency of the soup.   This could very easily be made vegetarian friendly by substituting the chicken stock for vegetable stock and leaving out the ham.  I wish these pictures could do this amazing soup justice, but the don’t.  Let me just say that I had overly high expectations for this soup … all the leek creaminess hype really had me going … and this lived up to every last one!!  I ate it two nights in a row, and I’m starting to regret not making a bigger batch and freezing some so that I could eat it again right now!

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Leek and Butterbean Soup with Ham

Yield: 2-4 servings

Ingredients-

3 medium leeks
1 package of mushrooms (I used baby bellas but you can use whatever kind you happen to have around)
3 1/2 cup chicken stock
2 15oz cans of butterbeans (Drained and rinsed)
2 cloves garlic*
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups ham, cubed or diced
Salt and pepper to taste (I found that it needed a good amount of salt, probably about 3/4 tablespoon)

Directions-

- Prepare the leeks. Trim the roots and the tough upper leaves. Cut in half lengthwise or dice. "Fan" under running water to remove any mud or grit. (Alternatively, place the chopped leeks in a large bowl of water and let rest until the grit has fallen to the bottom.) Chop the leeks into slices.
- Wash and slice the mushrooms (if using).
- Warm the olive oil and butter in a large stockpot. Saute the leeks and mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring often. Then add the garlic and saute for another minute.
- Add the butterbeans and chicken stock. Stir well. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent burning.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Either serve as it is, or blend in the pot with an immersion blender or in small batches using a food processor until smooth.

* To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the cloves from the papery outside and rub with a little olive oil. Wrap them in foil and seal up the sides (make a little foil pouch). Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Alternatively, you can roast an entire head of garlic and save the rest for another recipe. To roast the entire head, use a sharp knife to cut the top of the garlic off. Brush with a good amount of olive oil. Wrap in foil pouch and roast 45-60 minutes. Garlic should be soft enough to be squeezed out of wrapper.

Wildly adapted from Veg Box Recipes

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2 Responses to “Leek and Butter Bean Soup with Ham”

  1. 1
    RevJen — March 14, 2009 11:10 pm

    I made this last night, and it’s wonderful. I found it plenty salty with the salt from the chicken broth, the canned beans, and the ham. A friend came over and we played with dishing up small amounts and adding different seasonings: herbes de provence were great, Penzeys Maharaja Curry Powder was fantastic, nutmeg and ground cloves added an interesting depth. Fun!

    • kate replied: — March 16th, 2009 6:29 pm

      RevJen — Those additions sound fantastic! Thanks for the suggestions. I definitely want to try the nutmeg and cloves the next time around!

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