September 16, 2011

An easy white bean soup

My tummy is full of chocolate cake and I'm ready to divert my attention to something totally different on this blog today.  With the promise of cooler temperatures and shorter days, I've been thinking about soup.  I love soups and the hotter (temperature wise), the better.  I recently made this quick and simple white bean soup, which can be prepared in under half an hour.
This is a rustic vegetarian soup, made with vegetable broth and basic cannellini beans.  I've added carrots, escarole, and some garlic and dried oregano for flavor.  You could throw in other vegetables of your liking.  On a cool Fall evening, a bowl of this hearty yet light soup, along with a nice open face sandwich, could be just the thing.
White bean soup with prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich

I was enjoying a bowl of bean soup at a carryout restaurant one day and thought it would be easy to recreate it at home. 

The basics of what you need to make my version include vegetable stock, rinsed and drained cannellini beans, diced carrots, chopped escarole, minced garlic, some dried oregano, and lemon juice (not shown below).  The recipe follows at the end of the post.

Start by cooking the diced carrots with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes.   Stir in minced garlic and oregano, cook for another 2 minutes and moving the garlic around so it doesn't burn. 
Add one 32 oz. carton of vegetable broth.  Stir it around and let it come to a boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes so the carrots have a chance to become tender.  Add the rinsed and drained cannellini beans and chopped escarole and stir around.   
Let it cook for about 4-5 minutes.  Then using the back of your wood spoon, mash some of the beans against the pot to thicken the soup a bit.  I love how this adds creaminess without any added fat.
Then add some fresh lemon juice, about 1 1/2 tablespoons.  The lemon juice has a subtle way of brightening the flavors up.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You will need more or less salt depending on whether you used regular or low-sodium vegetable broth (I'd go with no or low sodium).
The soup is ready and could be served with a piece of warm French bread or any kind of sandwich.  I choose to make open-face sandwiches using french bread, topped with a couple slices of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.

If you're interested, simply take some slices of french bread (some flat ciabatta would be great too) and sprinkle the cut sides with a little olive oil.  Toast the bread in a 375 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes.  Take the bread out and rub the cut side with a piece of raw garlic clove.  This will infuse it with a great garlic flavor.  Top with 2 slices of prosciutto each and a couple slices of fresh mozzarella.  Return the sandwiches to the oven for another 5-6 minutes until the cheese warms and begins to melt.  I also made a few plain crostini rubbed with garlic for my son who loves to munch on those crunchy toasts.
Sprinkle the sandwich with a little cracked black pepper and we're ready to go.


White Bean Soup

- Makes about 4 servings -

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (32 oz.) carton of low-sodium vegetable broth
3 (15 oz.) cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained *
1 large escarole, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

* Use 4 cans of cannellini beans if you prefer a thicker soup

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add carrots and cook for about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and dried oregano, cooking for another 2 minutes.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Let soup cook for about 8-10 minutes until carrots are tender.

Add cannellini beans and escarole and cook for 4-5 minutes so beans are warmed and the escarole has wilted and softened.  Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans against the pot to thicken the soup. 

Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Substitution Ideas: You could use a variety of other vegetables in this soup.  Instead of escarole, you could try kale, swiss chard, lettuce (any leafy greens), or even scallions.  Or add finely diced onions or celery.  I like to add a little pinch of red pepper flakes in with the garlic for some added heat.  Some diced canned tomatoes or finely diced red peppers are other options.  And add more or less according to your tastes.

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