Seasonal Pantry: Time for spring soups

Locally grown shell beans are readily available at the farmers markets, making great bean soups an easy addition to your meal planning.|

Maybe I’ve been thinking about soup so much lately because I’m still longing for winter, or at least a bit more rain.

Inspiration also has come from our farmers markets and farm stands. With locally grown shell beans so readily available, making great bean soups has never been easier. They are so full of earthy flavors and have such great textures that soup practically makes itself.

The ready availability of stewing hens helps, too. Green Star Farm now sells stewing hens, which produce a much more flavorful stock than younger chickens. If you have a large slow cooker, put a stewing hen in, cover it with water, add some salt and, if you like, add a splash of apple cider vinegar, some garlic, some sliced ginger and a chopped onion and leave it on low all day and overnight. If you don’t have the time, inclination or ingredients, don’t worry about the aromatics. If your garden is full of herbs, add some. Even if the only ingredients are the hen and salt, you’ll have a great stock; it’s about as foolproof as you can get.

For soups from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit “Eat This Now” at


Marrowfat white beans were once little more than a rumor, available fresh for a week or two in the fall and then gone. Now, several local farmers grow them and sell them dried as well as fresh. Both are so good. When I have them, I make a very simple soup to show off their flavor and texture. To make this soup with other white beans, consult the variation at the end of the recipe. This soup welcomes a nice red wine, preferably an Italian varietal, alongside. For a full meal, add a big green salad and warm hearth bread.

The Simplest White Bean Soup

Serves 6

1 pound marrowfat white beans

- Kosher salt

4-6 ounces (1 to 1½) cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

- Black pepper in a mill

- Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse the beans under cool water and pick through them to remove any small rocks or other varieties of bean.

Put them into a clay bean pot or large saucepan, set over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. (If using a bean pot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.) Reduce the heat, skim off any foam that rises to the surface and cook until the beans have begun to soften. Season with salt and continue to cook until the beans are very tender; add water as needed so that the beans do not dry out or scorch.

Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender until very smooth. Return to low heat, stir in the cheese, taste, correct for salt and season generously with black pepper.

Ladle into soup plates, drizzle with olive oil and serve right away.

This soup will keep well, properly refrigerated, for several days.

Variation: To make this soup with a bean other than marrowfats, add 1 chopped yellow onion and a few crushed cloves of garlic when you add the salt to the beans.


Avocados seem particularly good this year, with a creaminess that is perfect for turning them into soup. On a cold night, serve the soup warm, if you like, with warm corn tortillas alongside.

Avocado Soup with Shaved Radishes and Cilantro

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons avocado oil or walnut oil

1 medium yellow onion, cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1½ inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced

- Kosher salt

4 cups homemade chicken stock or mild vegetable stock

3 medium ripe avocados

2 limes, plus more as needed

- Black pepper in a mill

1 bunch radishes, trimmed thinly shaved (see Note below)

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

Pour the oil into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the onion and saute until soft and fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and the serrano, saute 2 minutes more and season with salt. Add the stock, simmer for 10 minutes, remove from the heat, cover and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, scoop out the flesh, put it into a bowl and add the juice of 1½ limes. Season with salt and toss gently. When the stock has cooled to room temperature, whisk in the avocado and then pass through a food mill or strainer into a large bowl. If using a strainer, use a sturdy wooden spoon or pestle to press the avocado through the strainer. Taste, correct for salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours and as long as overnight.

To serve, taste the soup, correct for salt and add several turns of pepper. Shave the radishes and toss with the juice of the remaining ½ lime. Ladle into soup plates, scatter the radishes and chives over each portion and serve right away.

Note: To shave radishes use a good vegetable peeler or a very sharp, very thin knife to make flat shreds as thin as possible; do not worry about uniformity as shredding results in randomly shaped pieces.


This soup has the same flavors as a favorite salad - garbanzos, celery, feta cheese and olives - but in an entirely different context. It is robust, earthy and bold. If you’d like bread alongside, use pita or lavash, warmed until soft and tender but not crisp.

Chickpea Soup with Sauteed Celery, Feta Cheese & Black Olive Tapenade

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried chickpeas, cooked until tender, or 3 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, minced

1 small celery rib, minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

- Kosher salt

- Black pepper in a mill

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 medium celery ribs, cut into thin diagonal slices

1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

4 tablespoons black olive tapenade, homemade or commercial

2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the chickpeas or rinse canned ones, if using. Set aside briefly.

Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a medium soup pot set over medium-low heat, add the onion and celery and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 2 minutes more and season with salt and pepper.

Add the beans, the stock and enough water to completely cover the beans and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining olive oil into a small saute pan, add the celery and saute until it just loses its crunch. Season with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Remove the soup from the heat, cool briefly and puree with an immersion blender, adding water as needed for the proper consistency. Taste and correct for salt. Reheat if necessary.

Ladle into soup plates and top with a generous spoonful of tapenade. Scatter the celery and feta cheese over each portion and serve right away.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 18 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” Email Jordan at You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at

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