Kind of a nice new cookbook came in the mail today from the Quality Paperback Book Club. The concept's a little strange -- "Twelve Months of Monastery Soups," by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette -- but the contents are mighty appetizing, featuring quite a range of soups from light to hearty, mostly made with country fare but not entirely vegetarian.

We had a bag of dried lima beans around, so I tried one and stuck fairly faithfully to the instructions ...

Place 16 ounces of dried lima beans in a large cast-iron dutch oven with eight cups of water. Bring to the boil, let simmer at a rolling boil for two minutes, then cover, turn off heat, and let sit for 60 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set the beans aside.

Wipe the dutch oven clean, put in 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sautee 1 large onion, chopped coarsely, with 2 or 3 large minced garlic cloves. When the onions and garlic are translucent and aromatic, add the beans and 2 cups beef broth (I used Minor's Beef Base) and 5 cups water (or to go strict vegetarian, skip the broth and use all water). Slice a large carrot into thin rounds, and add them to the soup. Peel a large baking potato and cut it into smallish (1/2-inch) cubes, and add them to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste, set heat to a low-medium fast simmer, and cook, partly covered with a lid set askew, for about 1 hour or until the beans are fully cooked. Correct seasoning and serve.

This makes a very hearty soup, even without any significant meat content, and it stood up very nicely to Col d'Orcia Rosso di Montalcino, a dry Italian red.