“I love the versatility of dried beans,” says Matheson, chef and co-owner of The Kitchen in Boulder, Colo., who uses them often in his recipes. Butter beans don’t grow well in Colorado, so he orders them dried from Iacopi Farms in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
“Dried produce does have a shelf life,” he cautions. “You should look for beans that are no more that a year old.” The best place to find them is at local farmers markets; beans are usually harvested in October or November and dried during the winter months.
For this soup, you can use any type of bean you like. Spinach should be available at many local farms in March, but if not, you can substitute other local greens.
6 oz. dried beans, soaked in water overnight and drained
One large onion, chopped
2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. spinach
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 cup fresh chopped parsley or celery leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Place the soaked, drained beans in a large pot and pour in the stock to cover. Simmer the beans and stock over medium heat until beans are tender, about 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat up half of the olive oil. Add the onions and thyme and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add this mixture to the beans as they simmer.
3. Once the beans are tender, stir in the spinach and simmer until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. If needed, add water or stock to thin the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with olive oil and parsley or celery leaves. Serve with lots of crusty bread.