19 October 2011

You Know What They Say: If It's Hot in the Kitchen ....

... grab yourself a spoon and dig in!

OK, so "they" don't really say that and no, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.  And
yes, I'm just making sh*t up for a good segue into today's topic.  So sue me!  But in what other fashion (replete with folksy, adorable charm) could I introduce a fantastic soup recipe without it being a total snore?  Exactly.

Anyhoodle, as I've already mentioned a few times, I'm becoming a bit of a stickler about the nutritional content of the grub I'm stuffing into my family's mouths.  As many of you may already know, however, eating healthily does not always go hand-in-hand with eating deliciously.  Or enjoyably.  These things can be - and often are - mutually exclusive.  So when I stumble upon recipes that are both super healthy AND super tasty, I get
super excited.  Like, over-the-top, balloons-and-streamers, call-everyone-on-my-long-distance-plan excited (I mentioned that I don't get out much these days, right?)

Tonight was just such a night, when the earth tilted a little bit on its axis and the stars aligned and in my kitchen, I cooked one heck of a gosh-darn delicious soup.  This soup is so flavorful, in fact, that my teenager was willing to overlook its inherent health benefits AND the fact that it's vegetarian, and helped himself to a huge bowl of it ... without me having to force him!  Oh yeah, it's all good.  Check it out:

Can't you almost smell it through your computer screen??

And since it would be terribly rude of me to go on and on and on about what a terrific soup it is and not post the recipe, here it is:

Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes | Serves 8

  • 500g dried cannellini beans
    (otherwise known as white kidney beans, for those of you who - if you're like me - maybe aren't as hip to the dried legume lingo as we could be)
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced*
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced**
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste***
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
  • 1.7L (59 fl oz) vegetable stock****
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 30g (1 oz) chopped flat-leaf parsley
     Cooking Directions:
  1. Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. When ready to prepare the soup, score a cross in the base of each tomato.  Put in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water.  Leave for 30 seconds, then transfer to cold water and peel the skin away from the cross.  Roughly chop the tomato flesh.
  3. Drain the beans and rinse under cold water.  Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the beans, chopped tomato, tomato paste, carrot, celery, stock and bay leaves; stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 45-60 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and season to taste.  Stir in some of the parsley and use the rest as garnish.
Here are some of the changes I made to the recipe, to personalize it a little bit.  They all worked beautifully so it's entirely up to you if you prefer "by the books" or "a bit renegade":

* I used one red and one Spanish onion, which may or may not have affected the flavour, but sure looks pretty.

** I minced my garlic, and doubled the amount.

*** I omitted the tomato paste as I often find it gives soups a bit of a bitter edge.  I let the fresh tomatoes do all the work, and it turned out just fine.

**** I'm not a huge fan of stock, per se, and much prefer to use bouillon cubes (sure, it might be cheating, but I like the flavour better.  It packs more of a punch).  I used two vegetable bouillon cubes and one chicken, which made it a bit more robust (but less vegan, obviously).

FINAL CHANGE: In some bowls, I left out the lemon and added freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano.  It definitely gave the soup a more Tuscan look and feel, and added another bit of heartiness that went beautifully with the beans.  I actually prefer it with the cheese than not.

So there you have it: my rich, warm, hearty dinner can now be yours!  Happy cooking, everyone!