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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just a Little Help

After too many days spent on airplanes, going here and there...listening to people sniffle, cough and sneeze all around me (eeew!) I arrived back at my little
San Francisco outpost with the quirky kitchen, ready to actually cook something. I'll admit it. I've grown a little lazy, folks. Having to think through the logistics of making a meal (for one) with limited kitchen stuff has at times overwhelmed my eagerness for home-cooking. (How did I become so Cooking High Maintenance?!) It's so easy to stand there in front of the Whole Foods prepared sushi section and think...sooo simple. No dishes. Just eat and toss the little container when you're finished. I've been weak, people!

But then my inner Italian Girl sat up and said, enough! (Well, she said 'basta'!, but you know what I mean....) It doesn't have to be complicated!

So, I went with my current strategy. Ask yourself, "what do you feel like eating?"
Umm, beans. In some kind of broth. With some veggies.
If I was in a restaurant, that's what I'd be looking for...some kind of
Tuscan Bean Soup.
Soup is a really good friend. Flexible and forgiving, comforting and comes through when you need a pat on the back or a hug. You can do the long, slow-cooked variety, or you can put together something pretty good, in a snap...with a little help. In the words of Dr. Seuss...Oh The Places You'll Go...if you have some good, canned (or boxed) chicken stock!

Orangette, one of my absolute favorite food bloggers, posted an escarole salad recipe last year, and that's when my love affair began. I would be absolutely content to eat this salad every single day, and came close to doing so for a while there. Escarole is exceptionally delicious in said salad, but equally at home giving a little kick to a bean soup which would be dull without it. But alas, my beloved is often absent from the produce section, (why?! oh, why?!) and so...I improvise. I'll admit to a pang of jealousy this week, after I couldn't find escarole, yet again, when I saw that yet another favorite food blogger, Deb at Smitten Kitchen had access to escarole for a wonderful looking soup with orzo and meatballs.

My plan the other day, was to stop by a cozy, local grocery store, Bi-Rite Market to pick up the elements for my soup. I almost strayed...Bi-Rite has perfect, smallish portions of fish and meat, marinated and vacuum-sealed in packets, ready for cooking. Pure genius...but, another time. So, of escarole. I decided to go with two handfuls of fresh baby spinach, instead. A can of white canellini beans, the previously mentioned box-o-chicken broth, a head of garlic and a loaf of ciabiatta went into the basket. On a whim, I picked up a small container of pre-made pesto. Might be nice as a garnish.

Back "at home", as the garlic and onions sizzled away in the pan, I realized how much comfort I derive from the mundane...the zen of chopping, the wonderful smells wafting through the kitchen.

The soup itself is nothing fancy, it's beans, sauteed briefly with some barely caramelized onions, and carrots, if you like, to which you add some stock. More, and it's "soupier", less and it's like a thick porridge. Right before serving, toss in your greens and stir. My garnish idea was perfect. The little teaspoon of pesto on top, melted into the soup giving it a zingy kick.
Sigh. Beats a plastic container of sushi any day.

Tuscan Bean Soup
serves two

1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can cannellini, or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup, or 1-2 handfuls of washed, roughly chopped escarole, or leaves of baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of prepared pesto, for garnish
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Sautee onion, garlic and carrot in oil until golden and almost beginning to brown.
Add beans and cook for one or two minutes.
Add chicken stock and simmer for five minutes.
Stir in greens, until wilted...about a minute or two.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with pesto and grating of cheese.


Jane said...

I love the "zen of chopping." (Marcia, that's a title for something.) If I could spend my time in the kitchen chopping and sauteeing, that would be enough for me.

A couple of weeks ago I made a white bean soup from someone else's recipe and it was... good. It was okay. It was filling. But it was all white and all beany and I just couldn't look at it again. It was missing something, but I just couldn't figure out what.

This is it! Green. I'm going to try it. I love soup. I love beans, but I also like an extra thing that makes it all go.

Herbs~Art~Family~Love said...

YUM! Gotta make this one