Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tuscan White Bean Soup

This started out life as a soup I saw on FoodTV's Molto Mario several years ago. I think. It was one of those I picked up while napping during a show and got the idea for it. It has gone through several variations but this is the most consistent one. Since I think it was Molto Mario it has always been called Tuscan White Bean Soup, and here is the recipe:

Tuscan White Bean Soup
Olive Oil
1 white onion diced
2 carrots cut into chunks (about 1 1/2 cups)
Chopped celery, including tops (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 T chopped garlic
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 lb cooked diced chicken
1 T dried basil (use 2T if using fresh chopped)
2 bay leaves
1/2 C fresh chopped parsley (no excuse for not having that on hand)
1 bunch kale, escarole or spinach (pic what looks best at the market)
3 15 oz cans Cannellini Beans, substitute white beans if needed.
2 quarts (32 oz) Chicken stock (canned broth is fine get low sodium if possible)

Get the biggest fricken kettle you have as this makes A LOT. Heat the pan and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onion and season with black pepper to taste. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often until the onions begin to become translucent. Add carrots and celery, cook another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute.

Add chicken, stock, beans, basil and bay leaves. Heat to boil over high then turn back to low and simmer 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. At this point taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. Add the parsley and whatever greens you are using. Simmer additional 10 minutes. Test seasoning. Serve with additional fresh cracked pepper and grated Parmesan.

The major greens really come down to what is freshest when you are in the market. Spinach is easy to find year round. My favorite is escarole that tends to be around more in the spring, kale's and chard's are found this time of year. Regardless all are good. I tried it with beet greens once, quite tasty with a sweeter finish. The problem is that it turned the soup bright red!

This is one of my go to meals when it is cold and rainy out. Serve it with hot garlic bread on the side. Sometimes a simple salad rounds it off nicely too.

I've done this as a vegetarian style soup too. I substituted out Vegetable stock (trader joe's has a really good one) for the chicken stock. I deleted the chicken and added one more can of beans and 1 bunch more of the greens. Hey...I may be a carnivore but all vegie meals hit the spot and help keep the cholesterol down and the pipes clean!

A couple of things to think about. Since a few of the ingredients are canned get low sodium where possible. If using canned stock watch your salt as some are very high in sodium and you could wind up over salting.

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