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Interstate Pigs and Bean & Leek Soup with Caramelized Radish

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Interstate pigs and bean soup?   This might sound a little crazy, but there's a connection, I promise.

I've been having recurring thoughts about pigs lately, spurred by two totally unrelated signs that began with my trip to Charleston this past weekend.  

Let me explain.

We were driving, as you do on road trips.    Staring aimlessly out the window.    Kind of tuning out.  I saw a truck ahead of us.    Now, you see a lot of trucks when driving, really not that unusual.   But this truck was special.   It had special cargo.  

I spotted little tails poking out the side of the truck as we passed.   Piglet tails.  Sweet, soft, tiny, curled up little pink pig tails.   Awwww.  That's when it dawned on me.   These pigs were going somewhere.   It wasn't just another road trip for them.  

I grew sad as I do when I think about animals that we eat.  It is why I regularly go back and forth between being a vegetarian and not.    The more I read and learn about how animals are 'produced' in this country, I am sickened by the conditions and the fact that this all ends up in our bodies.      Don't get me wrong, I do eat meat occasionally and certainly don't judge anyone else who does.  I've just been thinking more about what I consume, where it comes from and the effect that it has on my health.


Those little pigs heading to their next stop in the production process were nestled in my memory.  I settled back into vacation mode and ordered the pork ribs for dinner that night.   And they were amazing.   And I temporarily forgot all about the little pigs piled up in the back of the truck.

Until yesterday morning.    The pigs reappeared.    Back on the interstate again, except this time in a local news story about five pigs who got loose from a truck and ended up in the middle of morning commute traffic.      And while admittedly, some of the comments in the article are pretty darn hilarious, the whole thing just makes me sad.  
I guess the point of all this is that seeing these pigs triggered something in me that makes me want to re-examine my personal position.     I don't know if this will be fleeting or a more solid commitment, but for the moment I'm going to take a little break from meat while I reconcile my feelings.

Long story short, I made bean and leek soup for dinner last night and instead of flavoring it with bacon, I got creative with my seasonings and CSA box and came up with this version instead.  The spice mixture, containing natural hickory smoke and ginger, replicated the smoky flavor of the pork.  The caramelization of the radish added a little sweetness and a tiny bit of crunch.  A wonderful bacon substitute garnish.  The salted butter also helps to round out the flavor in this soup.

I didn't miss the bacon at all.

White Bean and Leek Soup with Caramelized Radishes




Ingredients

For the Soup
1 pound dried white beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salted butter
3 leeks, cleaned, halved and sliced thinly
3 celery heart stacks, diced
48 ounces low sodium chicken broth
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pork chop seasoning (I used Penzey's)
sea salt and pepper to taste

For the Radishes
1 small bunch of radishes, 7 - 10, large dice
2 teaspoons salted butter
sea salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Prepare beans using overnight or quick method as directed on the package.   Rinse thoroughly and set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons salted butter on medium low heat in large soup pot.     Add sliced leaks and celery hearts.   Saute vegetables until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes on medium low heat.   Add 1/2 teaspoon pork chop seasoning to vegetables and mix for a minute or two until combined.

Add beans back into soup pot.    Add the chicken broth to bean and vegetable mixture.    Simmer for an hour until flavors are fully combined.  

Meanwhile, prepare radishes to finish prior to serving soup.    Melt 2 teaspoons salted butter in small saute pan on medium heat.     Add diced radishes and saute on medium low for about five minutes.   Increase heat to medium and saute until radishes begin to caramelize and form a dark crust, about another five to ten minutes.   Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.   (Radishes are best served just out of the pan as they retain a little crunch.)

After about an hour, blend soup with immersion blender or blender until smooth.   Season with salt and pepper, as needed.

Pour soup into serving bowls and top with radish garnish.


Heading back to Charleston next with less deep thoughts and more on our weekend away!

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.   Do you think consciously about where your food comes from and how it is produced?  If you do, how does it impact your eating habits?
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