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Food Sunday: Senate Restaurant Bean Soup

The gray, chilly days of Northern Indiana November always make me hungry for soup, and I make several kinds and freeze some for when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. Senate Restaurant Bean Soup is one of my favorites. It is easy and filling, and it’s inexpensive and good for you, too!

This recipe comes from a 1976 Junior League of Grand Rapids, Michigan cookbook, and I’ve adapted it a bit over the years. For example, the original recipe calls for navy beans, which are much less interesting and flavorful. Bean soup is on the menu in the Senate’s restaurant every day. There are several stories about the origin of that mandate, but none has been corroborated. The recipes found online usually omit some of the ingredients in my recipe.


1 package of 15-bean soup beans; discard the flavoring packet, if there is one

2 large yellow onions, chopped

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine

1 smoked ham hock shank (or any very meaty ham bone)

2 bay leaves

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1/2 lemon

6 stems parsley

3/4 tsp. dried thyme


Soak beans overnight, then drain and rinse them well under hot water. Lightly brown the onion and garlic in butter. Put beans, 3 qts. water, and all of the other ingredients into a large pot or dutch oven (a slow cooker would work too). Cook covered, slowly, at least 3 hours or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove and discard the bay leaves, the 1/2 lemon, and what’s left of the parsley stems. Remove 2 cups of beans with a little liquid, puree them in a blender, and return the puree to the soup to thicken it. Remove the ham bone from the pot, remove the meat, cut it into small pieces and return it to the soup. Season with freshly ground pepper and 1 Tbsp. salt. Serve with cornbread and a tossed salad. Makes about 8 servings. It can be gently reheated, and freezes well.


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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."