- rinse all the beans in cold water separately and by variety (if using all 3), discard any that immediately float and soak the beans accordingly (see the note below) with ¼ tsp salt per bowl and 2 cups water (I soaked the giant lima beans for 12 hours, the white beans for 2 hours and the red beans for 1 hour and sometimes I include chick peas that I soak for 24 hours)
note : different beans require different soaking times (unless using canned pre-cooked beans) according to size and weight; correct soaking times will double the weight of the original dry bean … for example : chick peas that are extremely hard require 24 hours soaking time, giant lima beans require 12 hours soaking time, smaller white cannellini beans require 2 hours soaking time and smaller beans like white navy, red kidney, etc; require only 1 hour … it’s obviously easier to use only 1 type or color of bean but less fun & colorful !
- chop all the vegetables and reserve in 1 very large bowl with 6 cups of water with 1 ½ tsp salt and 1 small separate bowl just for the tomatoes with 2 cups water and ½ tsp salt (8 cups water total) and reserve (this will flavor the water and will be used for the soup)
- after soaking the dry beans accordingly, discard the water of each type of bean and set aside
- using a medium sized casserole, bring 6-7 cups of water to a boil with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking soda and when boiling, first add the giant lima beans and let boil for 10 minutes, then add the white beans and keep boiling for another 5 minutes and then the kidney beans for another 5 minutes (the water will darken and turn green), discard the hot water and rinse all the beans under cold water until cooled and remove any floating skins
note : if you want to use chick peas too, after 24 hours of soaking, for pre-boiling, add them after the white cannellini beans or at the same time as the smaller red beans or white navy beans …
- use a large casserole (with a lid) to make the soup, heat up the olive oil at medium-high heat, strain the chopped vegetables and cook them (except for the tomatoes) for 10-15 minutes until slightly softened, stirring occasionally, then add the tomatoes too and cook for another 2-3 minutes
- add the 8 cups of vegetable-soaking water and an additional 4 cups of water, the bay leaves and the salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then add all the rinsed beans, let come to a boil again, then reduce to a simmer at medium-low heat, add all the dried herbs, cover completely with a lid and let simmer gently for 1 ½ (for a firmer texture) to 2 hours (for a softer texture)
- add the fresh herbs towards the end, stir well, taste and adjust to your taste and serve warm, sprinkled with more fresh herbs and with some thick slices of rustic country bread.
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