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The freezer's packed, and the vegetable drawer needs some room made, and so I present...

Fridge Cleaner Ham-n-Bean Soup:

1 pound dried beans - soaked, washed, and picked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head chopped garlic
1 small white onion, chopped
1 cup carrots with skin on, sliced thin
1 cup of celery, sliced thin
1 large, meaty ham bone
2 quarts of liquid - I used 1 quart of chicken stock and 1 quart of vegetable stock.
2 tablespoons of coarse-ground prepared mustard
Bay leaves (I used three small ones)
1 cup diced potato - optional

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic, onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring constantly until the onion is translucent. Add the ham bone, beans, mustard and bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender and the meat is falling off the ham bone. If you're adding the potato, do it about 45 minutes after you start the simmer.

If you need to add more liquid, try using a flavorful ale or porter, it's delish!

Remove the bone, chop the meat and add it back to the soup, then serve.

I'm serving this with my favorite bread recipe - from the New York Times and never-ever-fails:

November 8, 2006
Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
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