January 18

Portuguese Bean Soup

When we lived in Hawaii, we wouldn’t eat out a whole lot, but we did eat out enough to be able to enjoy what cuisine was out there. It was rarely Hawaiian food that we ate (especially considering I was a picky little monster up until 20 years old), but some of the local haunts had some of the tastiest foods. One of them was the Pukalani Country Club. In recent years, it burned down, so they’ve since reconstructed the building and probably offer the same fare, but the memories of sitting in the classy little dining area, looking out over the driving range at sunset will never be re-created. And don’t think for a second that this was some haute cuisine just because it’s got ‘country club’ in its name. No, the Pukalani golf course was notorious for being low key and not very good, compared to the must-plays of the island where celebrities come and tourneys are played. We’re talking fried chicken, chintzy salad bar, soups, and fries. But for us, it was home cookin’ without the mess in our own kitchen.

Anyway, the point in bringing up the country club is to mention their Portuguese bean soup. Their soup was the best I had ever eaten, including my own mother’s! My mom put together a recipe of her own, following in the steps of the country club, in hopes of recreating a meal that tasted/looked just like the restaurant’s and was far cheaper on the wallet than getting the all you can eat soup and salad bar at that establishment. She’d spend an entire day making Portuguese bean and hamburger vegetable soups to freeze away for a rainy day, and to this day, she still does it. Having instilled this action in me, Portuguese bean is still my favorite soup and is still my favorite thing to grab out of the freezer when we need something warn in our bellies.

Portuguese Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 can (28 ounces) of Hunt’s whole tomatoes*
28 ounces water
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1″ cubes
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 can (15.25 ounces) light kidney beans, with juices
1 can (15.25 ounces) dark kidney beans, with juices
1 can (15.25 ounces) Northern beans, with juices
1/2 cup Lima beans, optional
1 package polska kielbasa**
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup onions, diced
salt
pepper

*the same amount of tomato sauce could be used, but the calorie content, sugar, and carbs goes up significantly when using sauce versus whole

**traditional Portuguese soup would use Portuguese sausage; for a healthier meal, you can also substitute turkey sausage

Directions

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees and warm sausage of choice on a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish. Cook sausage until the meat splits down the middle and has a crispy exterior. Remove from oven, let cool, and cut into 1/2″ circles. The circles can be sliced in half if a smaller bite is desired.

2) Turn the whole tomatoes into a puree with a blender. Add them and the water to a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Season with a little salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

3) Add rinsed barley, chopped carrots, and diced potatoes to the tomato base. Once again, bring the soup to a boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring rarely.

4) The beans and their juices are added next. If incorporating frozen Lima beans, do not worry about additional water/liquid like the other beans have. Stir well, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. If anything is, reduce heat a little. Bring ingredients to a boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

5) Lastly, add the onions, cabbage, and sausage to the soup. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Taste test the base; add more salt or pepper if necessary.

6) Remove soup pot from the burner and cover. Let sit for 10-20 minutes to finish cooking without the aid of the stovetop.

You can do as my dad and I used to do and serve this with buttered crackers (yes, we would actually put the country club’s creamy butter on thick saltine crackers — not many, though), or for the more health conscious, it can be a stand alone soup.

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