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.