Friday, February 15, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup

I found this recipe in Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables and tweaked it a bit. It is a great hearty soup that makes enough to easily feed 8. There were 6 of us and I had more than enough left over for a dinner for 2. The original recipe called for farro but when I pulled the bag I had out of the cupboard, bugs had been snacking on it and so I threw it away. Instead I used a similar but smaller ancient form of wheat from France called petit épeautre. The orginal recipe also called for red pepper flakes, I used piment d'Espelette instead. I meant to add kale to the soup, but in the end I forgot to add it. I think it would be very good in this and it would also add a color contrast. I also increased the amount of vegetables in the soup.

Tuscan Bean Soup
2 cups dried beans of your choice
1large onion, diced
2 small leaks, just white part, sliced
1 large carrot
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
5 small tomatoes, peeled and diced, canned if you are making this out of tomato season
a couple of sprigs of thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp piment d'Espelette (you may use a pinch of red pepper flakes instead)
2 or 3 slices of good smoked bacon, diced
6 cups chicken stock
grated parmesan cheese

1 cup petit épeautre or farro
salted water

Soak the beans overnight.  Cook all the vegetables except the tomato in the olive oil in a large nonreactive pot over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until they are translucent. Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with the tomatoes, bacon, piment d'Espelette, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, bring the soup to a boil and then lower the heat until the soup simmers. Cover leaving the lid ajar, stirring from time to time. When the beans are almost cooked, after about an hour, add the salt. Cook for another 15 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, cook the petite épeautre or farro in a second pot in salted water that covers it by a couple of inches. I used 1/2 tsp salt in the water. When the grains are cooked, after about 40 or 45 minutes, drain them. they should be a little al dente, not mushy. When the beans are cooked, stir in the grain and simmer for another 10 minutes. I served the soup with grated parmesan.

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