February 14, 2011

and, of course, there was soup

This weekend was a whirlwind.

Saturday there was a braising marathon with friends, finished off with thick, chewy whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookies (have you seen the recipe here or here? If you haven't made them yet, I highly recommend you get to it!)

Sunday brought brunch with the yogi at our favorite place. So many variables to a good brunch - the food, the light, the crowd, the coffee! - and they somehow manage to get all the essential elements right, every time. I departed from my usual, the country breakfast, and ordered the farmer's plate. Softly scrambled eggs, two slabs of creamy, crumbly aged cheddar, herb-roasted tomatoes, and a hunk of warm baguette. It's my new usual.

The day continued with much watching of Mad Men (we just finished season 3, now the wait is on until season 4 is released on dvd. I can feel the Don Draper withdrawal starting already).

And then, of course, there was soup.

I know, it's Valentine's Day, why am I writing about soup? Everyone's in the mood to indulge in rich meals, chocolate truffles, and the like. Well, okay, but what are you going to eat tomorrow? Ah, see? You need a V-Day Recovery Soup. I knew it.

I've been curious about the heirloom beans from Napa-based Rancho Gordo for a while now. The final nudge to order some was provided by Nancy's recent post on her scumptious-looking white bean lasagna, where she sang the praises of RG's mammoth-sized and amazingly creamy runner cannellini beans. I made my way over to their website and selected the Desert Island Sampler, which features five 1-pound bags of some of their favorite varieties (when I ordered, it was Christmas lima, cranberry, brown tepary, Rio Zape, and the aforementioned cannellini).

The RG cannellinis are the biggest I've ever seen -- and they cook up into the creamiest and most delicious white beans that have ever graced my palate. Tender, meaty, and buttery. Simmered in a base of homemade chicken stock, the beans slowly released their starch, which added a silky body to the broth and boosted its richness. Matched with the usual aromatics (onion, carrot, garlic), dried shiitakes, ginger, a little red chile, tamari, and (big surprise!) kale, I ended up with a soup that is satisfying and full of flavor yet also light and rejuvenating, the perfect antidote to a V-Day induced chocolate overdose.

vegetable soup with white beans
Makes about 2 quarts of soup

1 cup dried white beans, such as cannellini, soaked in water for 6 to 8 hours and drained
1-inch square of dried kombu
1 bay leaf
6 cups stock or broth (or water)

1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup dried sliced wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, porcini, maitake, or a mixture
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into short (about 1/2 inch-long) matchsticks
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small red chiles (such as pequins or bird chiles), crushed, or 1/4 tsp red chile flakes
1 bunch curly kale, chopped

tamari, to taste
sea salt and black pepper
chopped scallions, to garnish

Combine the soaked and drained beans, kombu, stock or water, and 1/2 tsp sea salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the beans are tender (the time will depend on the size and age of the beans - the beans I used took about 2-1/2 hours).

Add the onion, carrot, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, red chile, and kale to the pot. Simmer for an additional 30 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with tamari (I used about 1 Tbsp) and black pepper. Garnish each bowl with scallions.


  1. Everything looks amazing! I've yet to try the cookie, but I'm dying to. And I'm still in Don Draper withdrawal.... I can't wait for the new season.
    And finally, the soup looks incredible too!

  2. That soup looks amazing and those cookies look downright sinful...

  3. I've looked at the Rancho Gordo site before, but I think you just pushed me over the edge. Your soup looks so good and with your rave review, I gotta buy some now. Good luck with the Draper withdrawal. I'm awaiting the new season!

  4. Hello ladies and thanks for the sweet comments :)

    Lentil Breakdown - hope you have a chance to try the Rancho Gordo beans. I feel like I'm becoming an RG informercial, but they are just so incredible! I cooked the Rio Zape and Christmas lima varieties this week and was blown away. I'll have a couple more recipes with them soon too :)

  5. Hi Nancy---I'm glad you got some Rancho Gordo beans---they are so incredibly good, that you can't help but be an infomercial for them! the cannellinis are, without a doubt, the BIGGEST, Meatiest, ever.

    I love the direction you've taken with this soup---kombu, ginger, kale, chilis--yum.

    We recently finished our audiodiscs of the Millennium Trilogy, and suffered Salander-Blomkvist withdrawal.

  6. Hi Nancy - I am suffering the same Salander-Blomkvist withdrawal! Especially now that I've just finished the last of the Swedish films on dvd. Have you seen them? Nicely done and they help stave off the withdrawal (for a while, at least).

    I just found out that Eataly, a large Italian foods emporium in Manhattan run by the Batali-Bastianich folks, is going to be carrying the Rancho Gordo line. I'll have to check out the selection soon...