I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for spring. Dreary weather wears on me after about 4 minutes – basically, as long as it takes for me to drink a cup of cocoa. Then those cherished visions of me cuddled up with a good book and a warm drink quickly transform into reality – me working, shopping, eating, and sleeping all under the cover of dreary skies.
Fortunately I live in CA and spring is around the corner. Yesterday I planted loads of green beans, onions, and even tomato plants in my garden, all the while assuring the weather gods that now is as good a time as any to bring on lots of sun and warm temps. Still, despite my attempts to persuade the weather with my gardening efforts, it seems unwilling to cooperate. Yesterday’s 70 degree temps were replaced by today’s high of 57 and overcast skies and tomorrow’s promise of more rain.
Still, I can’t complain. I know plenty of people are still out there shoveling snow from their driveways with the very notions of gardens still a long ways off! If you are one of those people, take refuge in this soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s hearty, healthy, and wonderfully wintry. I serve mine with what we call “crack garlic bread,” and a recipe for that will follow soon!
If you live in California chances are high that you’ll find rosemary all around you. I found some planted in a decorative pot outside my post office, my mom has loads in front of her house, and my neighbor has some in their side yard, overhanging the sidewalk. Note these sites so that when you need a sprig or two for recipes like this, you don’t have to buy any. Instead, you can just rip some off your unsuspecting neighbor’s plant! I highly recommend doing this slyly and, if at all possible, under the cover of darkness. No sense in raising any unnecessary questions.
If you are a vegetarian or don’t have any pancetta on hand, throw in a chunk of Parmesan rind. I save my rinds in the freezer and when I make soups I just toss a cube or two into the pot to add additional flavor. Just remember to remove it later or you’ll end up ladling a melted, cheesy mess into your bowl!
white bean soup with winter vegetables
taken from www.cooksillustrated.com
6 ounces pancetta, one 1-inch think slice, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over
1 large onion, unpeeled and halved pole to pole
1 medium clove garlic, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 tsp table salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 small carrots, medium diced
2 ribs celery, medium diced
2 small leeks, white and light green parts, washed thoroughly, and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small onion, diced medium
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 oz kale, stemmed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 3 cups)
4 oz escarole, stemmed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 3 cups)
2 small boiling potatoes, medium diced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 sprig fresh rosemary
In large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until just golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 12 cups water, beans, halved onion, unpeeled garlic, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to boil over medium-high heat.
Cover pot partially; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are almost tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove beans from heat, cover, and let stand until beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid; discard pancetta, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Spread beans in even layer on baking sheet and cool.
While beans are cooling, prepare your vegetables.
Heat oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering; add carrots, celery, leeks, and diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add enough water to reserved bean cooking liquid to equal 9 cups, add to pot with kale and escarole.
Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes. Add potatoes and tomatoes; cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add cooled beans; increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Submerge rosemary sprig in liquid; cover and let stand off heat 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard rosemary, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle each bowl with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.