what is healthy, delicious, and a great way to clean out your pantry and fridge? soup! with my inability to leave whole foods for under $100, and my husband’s and my penchant for exploring different grains and legumes, we often end up with an assortment of these unused in our apartment. and with limited space it’s important to use up what you have before going out for more! so on a cold and snowy weekend, nothing beats the chill and uses ingredients at hand like soup. i will admit we had to pick up some diced tomatoes and kale, but you have to get out for some fresh air anyway, so it was a good excuse for a walk.
this soup was inspired by some of our favorite italian soups, with a base of mirepoix, white beans, and tomatoes. the spirit of this soup is that after that you can add any vegetables you have or love. we added lacinato kale, my favorite vegetable at the moment, but any greens such as broccoli, cabbage, or string beans would be delicious. we also substituted shallots for some of the onion because we had some languishing from an october farmer’s market outing. and definitely don’t skimp on the carrots, because the sweetness they provide ties together the flavor beautifully.
and because this soup is so versatile, the adaptations and garnishes don’t stop with the ingredients. in its natural state it will be a delicious broth-based dish, but if you use an immersion blender or a food processor to puree a portion of the cooked ingredients, you will create a hearty and richly textured mixture full of vegetarian goodness. you can also top off your soup with a spoonful of pesto. here’s a recipe for the basil pesto i eat all summer long, but in winter you can forgo the expensive basil in grocery stores and use arugula, or your other favorite spicy green. and last but not least, a slice of crusty bread toasted with olive oil, garlic, herbes de provence, and salt goes perfectly alongside — or right in — your bowl.
winter white bean soup
1 1/3 cups dried beans, such as cannellini
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/8″ rounds
5 stalks celery, cut into 1/8″ pieces
8-10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, and 2 sprigs oregano, all tied together with twine
2 tsp or 2 cubes vegetable bouillon (or chicken if you prefer)
1/2 cup white wine
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch lacinato kale or other cooking green, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ ribbons
1. at least 8 hours before cooking, place the beans in a bowl with water to cover by 1″. cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature.
2. drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. place the beans in a medium pot along with fresh water to cover by at least 1″. add 1 of the bay leaves and the three sprigs of thyme. bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the beans are fairly tender but still al dente, about 30-45 minutes depending on the type of bean.
3. meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. add the onions and cook, stirring infrequently, until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes. add the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes more.
4. when the beans are ready, drain through a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. set the beans aside.
5. once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the bouillon and stir to dissolve. add the remaining bay leaf and the bundle of herbs. then add the white wine, tomatoes with their juices, beans, 1 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid, and 5 cups of water. salt and pepper generously and stir to combine all ingredients.
6. bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 12-15 minutes, until the beans and carrots are soft but not mushy. add the kale and simmer another 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
7. serve garnished with pesto, parmesan cheese, and extra-garlicky toast.
mirepoix: a french term for a combination of diced onions, carrots, and celery used as a flavor base for many soups, stews, stocks, and sauces.