Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Slices or large diced pieces of roast pork loin can be added to this soup.

Ingredients for the soup:
1 pound dried cannellini beans
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 yellow onion, quartered lengthwise
1 celery stalk, quartered crosswise
1 carrot, quartered crosswise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
1 quart chicken stock
finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Optional: 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

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Ingredients for the bruschetta:
6 slices artisanal bread, each 3/4-inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

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Ingredients for the topping:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparing the soup:
Rinse the beans, place in a saucepan, and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from the heat. Let stand for about 20 minutes, then drain.

Return the beans to the saucepan along with the prosciutto, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf. Pour in the chicken stock and then add water as needed to cover the beans by 2 inches. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat (if heated too fast, the skins may break). Adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are almost tender, 20 minutes or longer, depending on the age of the beans. Add salt, to taste, and continue cooking until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let the beans cool in the liquid.

When ready to serve, train the cooled beans and other solids through a sieve, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, puree the beans and solids in batches with 3 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, push the solids through a fine mesh sieve into a clean large saucepan - There should be about 6 cups of soup in the saucepan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

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Preparing the bruschetta:
Preheat a stove-top grill pan. Place the bread slices in a single layer on the grill pan and toast until each side is crisp and has grill marks, about 6 minutes. The bread can also be toasted in a 500 degrees F oven on a baking sheet. Remove from the pan and lightly brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil, then season lightly with salt. Let cool.

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Assembling the soup:
In a small skillet over high heat, warm the 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn brown. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for a few seconds, then add the basil. Cook until basil wilts.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls. Top the soup with the basil mixture. Serve bruschetta with each bowl, adding parmesan, if desired.

Serves 6


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