Soups fill our winter evenings, and the most filling ones start with beans. I love cooking with dried beans and tend to store many types in quart jars—which means I often have jars with just a scoop of beans left that I want to use up before I restock. Fresh Mixed-Bean Soup is the perfect option. You can use just about any bean in it, including lentils and split peas; the more variety, the more color and texture in the final soup. I often start by emptying as many jars as I can and then adding whatever beans I have in larger quantities, 1/2 cup at a time. Sometimes I even toss in leftover pearl barley.
In many ways, a soup with many types of beans resembles the bean soup mixes you can buy prebagged and tied with a pretty ribbon. But you’ll spend a lot less money if you buy the beans separately in bulk. You’ll also save money and have more control over the salt content and other additives if you started with dried instead of canned beans. And once you start cooking with dried beans, you’ll discover plenty of other uses for them, including—on this blog—pinto or kidney beans in Red Beans and Rice, black beans in veggie burgers, and chickpeas in falafel and this week’s other recipe, a Moroccan bean soup.