Many years ago, I attended a pan -Orthodox parish in the San Francisco area. That church was packed with fantastic cooks from all corners of the world, so each pot luck was an adventure in yumminess!
Once there was a pot of creamy beige bean soup which looked, frankly, boring, so I passed it up. Big mistake. As I was eating, I noticed that there was a crowd around one end of the buffet. I figured that someone had put something else out, so I walked over to see. There were about eight men dipping their bowls into a pot - the pot of the bean soup! I picked up a bowl and managed to scrape the last half cup from the sides of the pot. Oooooohhhhh...... It was heaven! I simply had to get the recipe.... one of the ladies told me that Masha, a beautiful Russian woman, had made it, so I walked over to her table and asked her about the Russian bean soup. She was nonplussed, and to her credit, didn't laugh in my face. She told me it was Greek soup, Fassoultha not Russian, and that she had gotten the recipe from her mother in law in Greece. Lucky for me, Masha took pity on me and gave me the recipe. Naturally, I tweaked it a bit over the years. I've made it hundreds of times - its one of my ex-husband's favorites.
2 C dried white beans, picked over and rinsed
8 C water
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 C)
4 carrots, chopped (about 1 C)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp fines herbes
secret ingredient that makes a BIG difference: 1 tsp sugar
For pressure cooker: Put all the ingredients, including the unsoaked beans, into the pressure cooker and bring to 15 lbs pressure. Cook for 60 minutes. Let pressure reduce naturally. Pick the bay leaf out, then strain at least half the solids out and puree. Return the puree into the remaining soup in the pot. Taste for salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Serve with onion and tomato salad. Enjoy!
Don't use broth for this soup, plain old water is best!
Updated on 12/8/07: Snowy wanted to know exactly what beans I used for this soup. I normally use any white bean for this soup. Here in America, the most commonly found is called navy beans. Other names for them are haricot beans or pea beans. Great Northern beans are another easily found (in America) white bean, which is slightly larger than the navy bean, more reminiscent of cannellini beans. I think you could use cannellini beans, great northern beans or maybe even flageolets for this soup. In America, cannellini and great northern beans are very easily and inexpensively found, but the flageolets are a luxury item, so I tend to save them for cassoulet when I get them.
I'm no expert on beans, but I love them so I tend to buy whatever unusual types are available to me. Experimentation is so much fun!!!