Today’s challenge, which I chose to accept, was to prepare two dishes in my friend Ari’s kitchen using only the sparse ingredients on hand and no added salt!
But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. I was at Ari’s house today to sit with her as she recovered from surgery. We’ve been friends for 21 years so I was perfectly comfortable going through her cabinets and running a blender while she napped on the couch. But cooking for Ari comes with some restrictions, namely that she has to be careful about the amount of sodium she consumes because of her MS medications.
Yes, Ari has multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed a few years ago and handles the challenges of this horrendous disease with incredible dignity and a positive attitude. I feel inspired by her bravery every time I see her. But she doesn’t accept help easily so there are really only three things I can do for her:
1) Be there for her when she asks (and when she doesn’t).
2) Cook for Ari and her incredible husband.
3) Raise money for her MS Walk team, Turtle Express.
I’m always trying to accomplish #1, I fulfilled #2 today (recipe follows), but I need your help with #3. Please visit my walk page to make a tax-deductible donation to the Illinois MS Chapter where 88% of every dollar raised is used to fund programs and services for families impacted by MS along with vital research into its cause and cure.
As for today’s challenge, I decided to make myself at home in Ari’s kitchen once she fell asleep on the couch. The cabinets were pretty bare although I did find two cans of great northern white beans. But luckily her mom had thought ahead and had gone to the grocery store so there was a nice selection of fresh produce to choose from: baby sweet peppers; cherry tomatoes; a cucumber; zucchini and yellow squash; onions; lettuce and spinach.
The first thing I thought to make was a white bean salad with sweet peppers. I chopped the peppers and sauteed them with half a diced onion. I then rinsed the beans very well to wash away the excess sodium (something like 480 mg/half cup) and added them to the pan. The only problem was that these beans weren’t holding their shape and were quickly turning to mush.
No problem. How about a white bean soup, I thought. I added about 2 1/2 cups water (not broth because of the sodium) to the pot and simmered the beans and vegetables for 10 minutes. The soup then went into the blender, then back into a pot to be reheated and seasoned with paprika, black pepper and lemon juice.
The result: a tasty, nutritious soup with tons of fiber and protein that’s low in sodium.
Here’s the recipe:
White Bean & Sweet Pepper Soup – makes 6 cups
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
5 mini sweet peppers (1 large), seeded and diced
2 cans white beans (about 30 ounces), rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the sweet peppers and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the white beans and cover with water. Increase the heat to high until the water just comes to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly then transfer half to a blender. Pulse on high speed until the beans are completely pureed. It’s okay if there are a few small red flecks from the sweet peppers.
Return the soup to the pot and set over low heat. Season with paprika, black pepper and lemon juice.