Friday, January 25, 2013

When It Gets Cold in Arizona, Make Arizona Mountain Soup

It actually does get cold in Arizona.  Many people don't realize that we have higher elevations (as a Washington State native, I just can't call them mountains, though) that host skiing and other delightful winter activities, and in the winter months, the temperatures up there get downright frigid.
But last week, it was cold all over the state, and I'm not exaggerating; the highs barely hovered in the low 40s, and at night, we dropped into the mid-20s.  Signs that it was colder than usual were all around us:
  • Rose bushes were covered with sleeping bags.
  • Scarves were seen all over town.
  • Rarely-used heat seaters were toasting buns all over the Valley.
  • Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's were beset by panicked citizens clamoring over the last pair of thermal undies.
OK, maybe that last part wasn't real, but I kind of like to imagine people, shivering in their heaviest sweatshirt, clearing out the racks of long johns.

What I do know actually happened is that in Casa de Philistines, we were going to need soup.  Lots of it.  It would warm us up at dinner time, and the making of it would keep the kitchen nice and toasty as well.  So Soup Week came at the most perfect time for us, and I reveled in the joy that was a Dutch oven on a hot burner.

I found the recipe for Arizona Mountain Soup while I was searching for an "Arizona style" soup online.  I thought it might be fun to focus my Soup Week contribution on something local.  Unfortunately, while a fairly standard recipe can be found all over the internet, I can't find any information as to why it's called Arizona Mountain Soup or how it originated.
I'm horribly disappointed.
I like to imagine that this is a "cowboy" or "wild west" version of minestrone, like some Italian immigrants who came to make their fortune in the west years back were inspired by the southwestern tastes and threw them into the campfire pot.
Yep, I know - I can spin quite a fanciful yarn, but I digress.
This soup beat away the chills easily.  I decided to healthify it a touch and add some more fresh vegetables to the original recipe, since why just use onions when you can have meeruhpwa merepoi mirepoix?
(OK, French-speaking people, how do you even get that spelling?  I'm gonna have to go all phonetically logical German on y'all - Suppengrün - BOOM)

Most Arizona Mountain Soup recipes also call for dried beans that you soak before cooking.  Y'all, I have a confession: I can NOT cook dried beans to save my life.  Yes.  Yes, I know.  This should be the simplest thing.  But I...just fail.  So I used canned beans.  And I'm OK with that.  For now.
It was fantastic with a side of homemade cornbread, by the way.

Arizona Mountain Soup

  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed, OR 1 1/4 cups dried pinto beans
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped*
  • 1 (or 2) onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (since I don't eat chicken, I used homemade veggie stock)
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (if you like a little bite, or more, if you like more of a bite)

If using dried beans, soak overnight in 3 cups water.  Without draining, simmer until the beans are tender (about 2 hours).
In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon until nearly crisp.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until the veggies are tender.  Stir in tomatoes, rice, beans, and spices.  Add in the stock and an additional 2 cups water (or more, should you need it - heck, I used a little bit half a bottle of wine that I had lying around).  Bring to boiling and then simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste before serving with hot cornbread (which, just as a reminder, MUST be made in a cast iron skillet).

*To make the bacon easier to cut, freeze slightly for a little bit before chopping to bits.

This is a soup that freezes really well, and I have a quart of it taking up some valuable real estate in the freezer, so even though the temperatures have gotten tolerable once again, I may have to haul it out this weekend after our "nature walk" with HRH.

Please take some time to check out the other amazing soup recipes we have going on this week; there is something for everyone, and I am somewhat sad that Arizona is already starting to leave soup season in the rearview mirror.

And tomorrow (Saturday) come back to see these three wonderful recipes, too:

There you have it - creamy soups, broth soups, sick soups, cold soups, dinner soups, dessert soups, soups for every occasion and every palate.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go turn on the air conditioning so I can have an excuse to put up another batch of one of these amazing ladies' soups right now!


  1. I rarely cook with dried beans. It just takes too long and I always forget to soak them overnight, which sets me back another day. I've never understood the whole canned bean snobbery issue. What's wrong with canned beans, people? As long as you drain & rinse them, they are quick, easy & tasty. As is your soup, Allison. It's lovely, and I really dig the addition of more fresh veggies. We're having the same weather issues as Arizona. Last week it was freezing (perfect soup weather); today it's going to be 80. Which is why I love a soup that freezes well. PS - cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet = solid gold, baby.

    1. I want to be able to have the option, but I am totally fine with having canned beans on my pantry shelves. They can be a lifesaver when I need to whip up some hummus. The veggies, I personally think, were a fantastic addition, as they added color and flavor as well as a little bit of balance to the soup. I hope that you get to make it - and the (properly made) cornbread!

  2. Mmmm…the perfect ingredients in my book. And I'm w/ you guys--Canned beans are brilliant. Why reinvent the wheel, right? :)
    Having things in my freezer makes me feel secure and happy--I need to work on that!
    aloha friend. Stay warm. :)

    1. Monica, I have a freezer problem - once I freeze something, I want to keep it there forever, "just in case." It's borderline hoarding. I just have to be able to let go! LOL!

  3. Allison...this looks sooooo good! When I first read that you were making Arizona soup I thought....hmmm...cactus? But beans and bacon and fire roasted tomatoes...and lots of great veggies! I love it! I was in Arizona only once. In Flagstaff in April...there was a blizzard! So I headed back to the desert...and I loved it there. This soup looks awesome and I will definitely be making it before the winter is over! : )

    1. I was hoping to find something that really said "Arizona" a bit more, but cactus might have been a bit too much. It is definitely a winter warmer! Thanks, Anne!

  4. Mmm! I love the bean, rice and spice combo in here. Plus, that cornbread looks divine. I've never made homemade lame, I know.

    1. Well, get on it, girl! It takes literally no time at all, and it would be delish with your Garbage Soup!