This Spanish-style white bean soup is really, really good. Esperanza, my mother-in-law, gave me the base recipe, which I've made vegetarian and vegan. As in my recipe for easy Spanish lentil soup (sopa de lentejas), I have replaced chorizo with pimentón de La Vera (see my post on pimentón de La Vera for more information about this essential Spanish spice). The slight smokiness and depth of flavor is one of the things that makes this soup special, so it's important to use authentic pimentón de La Vera.
Another key to success is to start with the best beans possible. In Spain, beans are serious business. There seem to be countless varieties, and even though they are dried, much attention is paid to their freshness--the best dried beans being from the most recent harvest. Here's a pic of a Madrid shop specializing in beans.
You could use Cannellini, navy beans, or great northern beans, but try to find the freshest you can. It makes a world of difference in the soup. Here in Central Florida, I usually buy beans from bulk bins at a reliable health food store, or from Latin American groceries, which usually carry good brands with the harvest dates on the bags.
Here's how to do it:
12 ounces of white beans (great northern, navy, etc.)
2 onions, total
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, total
1 heaping tablespoon of flour
2 teaspoons pimentón de La Vera
1/4 -1/3 cup of olive oil
Put the white beans in a large pot. Don't add water yet. Look the beans over, moving them around with your fingers, to make sure there are no stones, twigs, etc.
Wash the beans in a couple of changes of water. Now put them in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Let them soak overnight.
The next day, bring them to a boil. A little scum may rise. Spoon it off. Turn them down to a simmer. Add one of the onions, peeled but not chopped, two whole garlic cloves, the bay leaves, and a teaspoon of kosher salt.
Let the beans simmer 1/2 hour. Add the carrot, peeled and cut into large pieces.
Let the beans simmer 1/2 hour more. Add more water if necessary.
Meanwhile, chop the other onion and saute it in the olive oil, over medium-low heat, until it's golden (this usually takes 15-20 minutes). Add the two remaining garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, and the flour. Stir. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the oil cool a few minutes. Add the pimentón. Stir. Add the sauteed onion-pimentón mixture to the beans and stir. Continue to simmer the beans until they're as tender as you like.