Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beans, Beans, they're good for your heart...

...the more you eat, the more soluable fiber that gets thrown in as a by-product of whatever tasty dish you made with the beans. I don't really eat a lot of beans during the summer. Maybe some fresh ones, especially fresh fava, but stewing beans or rehydrating them from their rock-like state in order to do something with them is not a summer activity. You will NOT find me out by the grill with dried beans. You will NOT find me enjoying a nice selection of pinto beans while sipping some Cava or Vin Santo at the beach. The time for rehydrating or using canned beans is now, in Autumn through Winter.

There are some great recipes with beans that I have already cooked this season, though the beans have been primarily using white beans do not think for a moment that I am some white bean bigot who cannot find equivalent loveliness in other styles, shapes and colors of beans. However, there are some dishes with which I have little tolerance for modification in this regard. Cassoulet with black beans? It could be done, but ... I'm just not ready to do that yet.

The recipe that I will be making tonight, which I have made many times in the past is another white bean recipe. It definitely falls into the comfort food category but it is not as weighty as something like a cassoulet or even a pistou. It does share one thing with the former, however, and that is the presence of pork, or at least a luscious pork product. The lovely Prosciutto de Parma. You could use Prosciutto from somewhere else, or even Serrano, but you want a nice ham in there. Maybe not Iberico because it should really just be consumed by itself, but the ham used herein should still be a good, thinly sliced, delectable ham. I haven't made this dish with smoked hams, not because I don't think it would be good, but I think the smokiness will drastically change the characteristics of the soup - not necessarily making it worse, just different.

 Emilia-Romagnan White Bean Soup

  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced finely
  • 6 real cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white or black pepper
  • ------------------------------
  • 4 cans WHAT? of canellini beans. (see note-disclaimer)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tb fresh thyme or oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme or oregano leaves
  • 4-8 fresh basil leaves, ripped
  • 2 c. water or chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 c. Napa Cabbage, shredded
  • ------------------------------
  • extra virgin olive oil or maybe white truffle oil (check the smell-note)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating (see other-note)
  • 1-2 good slices of prosciutto per person, torn up so it looks like more and you get a little piece of prosciutto in many of your spoonfuls.

    1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it starts giving off its smell, add the leeks and garlic and reduce heat to medium. Add the 1 tsp of salt and pepper, and saute the leeks for about 4-5 minutes until they are softened but not browned.
    2. In the same large saucepan, add the beans and their liquid, 2 tsp salt, herbs and 2 c. of water or stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
    3. Remove 1 1/2 c. of beans from the pot. You might get some pieces of basil or leeks when you remove the beans. You can pick them out and return them to the pot, or live with it.
    4. Using an immersion blender, whir that baby in the saucepan and puree. You could use a blender instead, but the immersion blender is pretty handy for stuff like this and if you have one, it probably went all summer without being used, so give it a chance to show what it can do.
    5. After the pureeing has concluded, stir in reserved beans and shredded cabbage. Return the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes until the cabbage wilts.
    6. Divide the soup into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil. Grate some parmigiano-reggiano over each. Drop the ripped up prosciutto in the center so it looks nice.

    NOTE-DISCLAIMER : CANNED BEANS are ok. For cassoulet, I tend to bring them back from their rock like state through soaking, especially if there's a big ham hock or garlic sausage in the soaking liquid. This recipe is really easy and short, however, so let's just use the canned beans this time. I'm sure the recipe would benefit from soaking with something yummy, like garlic sausage, but you don't need to do that in order for the recipe to work.

    OTHER-NOTE : PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO is the cheese you want to use. The other parmesans from Argentina, or Wisconsin, or Canada are acceptable if you don't want to pay the big price, but I'm only saying that to be nice. You don't need a lot of parmigiano-reggiano for the flavor to be obviously better.
    Oh, and please, not the green can thing. It's better not to add any cheese than use that green can of sawdust.

    SMELL-NOTE : Truffle oil is nice in this recipe, but not necessary at all. What also is not necessary is wasting truffle oil. If people have some, they buy it and keep it for some special occasion which might come 6 years later. Well, truffle oil fouls over time. Smell that oil before you use it. Don't ruin your soup or your impression of truffle oil by using something that has died.