About a year ago, I requested this recipe from my mom, who made this hearty soup regularly when I was a kid. And when I found the very same newspaper clipping in my grandmother Dorothy’s “Kitchen Klips” file of old recipes, I knew I had to share it here.
The name itself intrigues: Arizona Mountain Soup. According to “Easy on the Cook,” a long-ago column in the Indianapolis Star (byline: Clementine Paddleford) that Dorothy scissored out of the paper, the soup is attributed to a woman named “Bennie” Bennett, a sign-painter living in the mountains near Yarnell, AZ. (I’m guessing this recipe dates to the early 1970s.) Bennie, a woman on a budget, experimented in her kitchen to come up with this simple combo of rice, beans and vegetables. In the story accompanying the recipe, Bennie advises serving Arizona Mountain Soup with “oven-hot corn bread.” You’d do well to follow her lead.
Now that the weather’s turned (hello, 32°!), this soup is just right. Like all soups known to humankind, this one’s better a day or two after it’s made. (It freezes well, too.) I’ve enjoyed leftovers for lunch these past few days, and had highly productive afternoons as a result.
Good-quality dried beans that you cook yourself (I’m looking at you, Rancho Gordo) are ideal in this soup; with so few ingredients in this recipe, it’s worth using good ones.
Arizona Mountain Soup
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes with their juices
3 cups cooked beans (white, pinto or other; see Note)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (white, brown or a wild rice blend)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cups vegetable broth or water (or 2 cups of each)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat; sauté bacon until crisp but not too brown. Remove to a plate and drain off all but 2 tablespoons drippings. Add onion and a pinch of salt to the drippings and sauté until soft and translucent, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add beans, rice, salt, paprika and pepper, then stir in 3 cups vegetable broth/water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer soup for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding remaining 1 cup broth/water if needed. Return about half the bacon to the soup. Ladle into bowls and top with remaining bacon. Soup will thicken as it sits; add water or broth to thin as needed.
Note: Cook 1/2 pound of good quality dried beans to use in this recipe; if you're short on time, use low-sodium canned beans and rinse them well.