Tuesday, June 12, 2012
With summer right around the corner, soup seems like the least appropriate meal to be making right now. However, I assure you, that this soup (both ways) is perfect year round, including in the summer, if you alternate the veggies with what is in season. This past week I made a version of this Fresh Cannellini Bean Soup that I originally made a couple of years ago, but swapped out the potatoes and chard for locally grown zucchini, yellow squash and green beans, and it was just as delicious but a bit more fitting for the summer season. As usual my attempt to make a small batch of soup failed and after our meal I was left with one large pot of soup and two boys not so willing to eat leftover soup all week.
So, I did what I had to do, and what I always do when I want my husband and son to eat (and enjoy) their vegetable laden dinner, I top it with goat cheese. Yes, believe it or not, goat cheese or really any cheese for that matter, is the go-to favorite ingredient in this household. I pureed the rest of the soup in the blender (in batches) and topped it with a crumble of goat cheese and some fresh herbs. Of course the boys liked the soup much more this second way, but I thought both version of the soup were delicious. If I were to make this soup again (and I probably will) I would make just as I did this past week, as this is a great way to make two different meals out of virtually the same thing. You would think that the two soups would taste alike, but I promise you that they do not. Obviously they are similar in taste but beyond the goat cheese, they soup takes on an entirely different flavor when blended.
The key with this soup is to use dried cannellini beans (read below). Canned beans will just not suffice in this recipe.
Cooking Note: To make the summer version of this soup with zucchini, yellow squash and green beans, cut the veggies up into 1 inch pieces and add to the beans after about 1 hour and 40 minutes, giving the veggies about 20 minutes to cook.
Fresh Vegetable and Cannellini Bean Soup
I use water instead of vegetable stock in this slow cooked soup, which really allows the flavors of the actual vegetables to shine through. There is a true depth of flavor here that is due in part from the slowly cooked beans, part due to the aromatic fresh herbs and part due to the absence of vegetable stock, which can sometimes mute flavors. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over individual portions is also crucial to bringing together the essence of this soup.
1 1/2 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked in water for 8 hours or overnight
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium leek, cut in half lengthwise and chopped
fresh ground black pepper
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary)
1 fourteen ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, liquid reserved for another occasion
2 small carrots, cut in half lengthwise and chopped
2 medium fingerling potatoes
3 stems of chard (or dark leafy greens), rinsed well, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
In a large stockpot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the herbs. Drain the beans from the soaking water and add to the pot. Pour enough water over the beans so that they are completely covered. Add the diced tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and allow the soup to cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Add the carrots and potato and continue to cook at a simmer until the beans are creamy and cooked through, about 45 more minutes. Add the chard and taste for more salt and pepper. When the greens are wilted, after approximately 4-5 minutes, serve the soup in individual bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.