Monday, October 10, 2011

White Bean Soup with Herbs

Fall is finally in the air here in North Central Florida and this earthy, flavorful soup is a perfect way to celebrate the cooler temperatures. It's easy to make, and if you use canned beans you can have it on the table in about 30 minutes. This soup gets its flavor from the unbeatable trinity of a carrot, celery, and onion mire pois, along with the addition of lemon and a splash of Marsala wine.

The optional topping comes from Michael Chiarello.

White beans are high in fiber and low in fat. They are appropriate for a diabetic diet, and are a good source of other nutrients, as well. Combine with rice or other whole grains for a complete protein.

1 lb white beans (Navy, Great Northern, or cannellini)*
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
garlic, minced and divided
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 quarter preserved lemon, sliced in thin strips (or 1/4 cup lemon juice)
8 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup sherry or Marsala wine (optional)
*1 lb of Navy beans equals about 5 cups after soaking. If using canned beans, you will need about three 15.5 ounce cans.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Soak dried beans overnight in 6-8 cups water.Rinse and discard soak water. (Or quick soak according to package directions. If using canned beans, rinse and proceed to next step.)
  2. Add about 2T oil to the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven and swirl to coat. Heat over medium low heat.Oil is hot enough when a drop of water sizzles in it. Do not overheat it. Add onions, carrots, celery and sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt.. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent. You don't want them to brown. Stir frequently for 5-8 minutes, then add half the garlic, the bay leaf, and the preserved lemon. If using lemon juice, add it in the next step with the broth or water. Continue to cook and stir until garlic softens, but does not brown.
  3. Add beans and broth or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least one hour, or until beans are tender.If using canned beans, simmer until heated through.
  4. For a thick soup, place 2 cups beans into a food processor or blender and puree. Return to pot, add wine, and stir. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Before serving, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet. Add pepper flakes, minced garlic, and torn basil leaves and saute quickly until basil wilts.Top each bowl of soup with a spoonful of this and serve with crusty bread.

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