Friday, February 18, 2011

Hot Soup on a Warm Night

If you're planning a trip to Atlanta anytime soon, you have my sympathy. I can’t tell you how to pack because the weather here is crazy up-and-down. Several weeks ago we were iced in for five days and today it’s almost 70-degrees and gorgeous. Really? Guess the only advice I can give is to pack for both spring and winter, which means the airlines will charge you for overweight luggage … but don’t get me started on how they nickel and dime everyone. I’ll spare you that particular rant!

Meal-planning these days can also be challenging. You run out on a chilly day and purchase ingredients for a nice, soul-warming soup that you are going to make for tomorrow’s dinner. You soak and cook the beans, chop up all the vegetables, put it all together, then store it in the fridge to “cure” for the night. You head to bed and turn on the 11pm news, only to discover that temperatures will be in the tropical range the next day. Really?

That’s exactly what happened recently. It started when I dusted off my ancient copy of Lee Bailey’s Soup Meals. Remember him? Back in the day (late 70’s and early 80’s), he was the quintessential expert on food, style and entertaining. He had homes both in New York City and Bridgehampton and loved to entertain in both. I wish I could have been on his guest list and tend to think of him as an early (gay) version of the Barefoot Contessa. (Now, I have no idea if he was gay or not but c’mon – how likely is it that these fabulous books came from a straight guy?)

Sadly, Lee Bailey died in 2003 at the age of 76, but not before he published 18 books. I own 5 of them and they are all still relevant, even by today’s standards. When I was casting around for soup recipes recently, this one made the cut. Delicious, even on a not-so-chilly night.


1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 cup dried white (navy) beans
12 cups chicken stock
4 medium onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound bulk sausage
2 bunches broccoli rabe, tough stems removed, chopped
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving

Place black-eyed peas and white beans in a large pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and turn off heat; let stand for one hour, then drain well.

Return drained beans to the pot.  Add stock and bring to a boil over moderate heat.  Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat until mixture just simmers and cook until beans are tender, skimming as necessary.  This will take between 30 - 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Form sausage into 1-inch balls (a small ice cream scoop is helpful for this task). Place balls on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly browned.  Set aside.

When beans are tender, add broccoli rabe and return to a simmer.  Continue simmering until rabe is tender, skimming if necessary.  Stir in sausage balls.  Heat through, then taste to adjust seasonings.  Remove bay leaves before serving and top with a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves 8 - 10

*  If, unlike me, you have the foresight to plan ahead, you can soak the beans the night before.  Just place them in a large pot, add cold water to cover, place lid on pot and let sit overnight.  The next day, drain well and proceed with the recipe.

*  Use whatever type of sausage you like.  I used mild Italian, but you could also use chicken or turkey sausage.  If you can't find it in bulk, simply buy links and remove the casings, then form sausage into balls.

*  Don't let the broccoli rabe deter you from this recipe.  It adds depth and texture, not bitterness, to the soup.  If you've never tried it before, this is a good introduction.

*  You can certainly serve this soup the same day you make it, however, I am a firm believer in letting it "cure" for a day in the refrigerator.  To me, soup always tastes better on the second day.

*  I served this with "Cheesy Drop Biscuits" which I adapted from another one of Mr. Bailey's recipes.  Yum, they were terrific and I will post the recipe for them next.

Here's to you, Lee Bailey!  You may no longer be with us in person, but your memory, recipes and extraordinary style continue to live on.  We thank you for that legacy.


  1. I only have one of his books..(Country Desserts) I was just searching the internet to find more when I came across your blog...great post :)

    Today I made his banana-walnut muffins, Oatmeal Raisin cookies, and will make the Applesauce Cake next...his recipes are wonderful indeed...

  2. Ina garten was inspired by his ideas. Serving the entire meal on one big platter? Idea from lee Bailey. White serving dishes, especially platters? Idea from lee Bailey.
    And my favorite book is Country desserts. I put it right up there with Edna Lewis.