Garlicy Bean & Spinach Soup
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Soups & Stews 2008
Soaking time: 8-24 hours (I'm a great fan of using canned beans when I can...mostly because I usually decide on a dish just before I want to eat it, but this is one soup that I think needs soaked beans - they're firmer during the long cooking process)
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Beans & Broth:
1 medium carrot, peeled & halved lengthwise
1 fennel stalk – not the bulb (the recipe called for celery, but I didn’t have any)
4 sprigs fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh oregano
10 cups water
½ lb/225g dried Jacob’s Cattle Beans (the recipe called for chickpeas…I didn’t have any) soaked at least 8 hours or overnight in lots of water (at least 2” higher than beans) changed at least twice, drained and rinsed before adding to the pot.
1 medium onion, cut in half length-wise
1 head garlic, top third cut off and discarded, loose outer skin discarded
1 parmesan cheese rind about 4” x 2”
2 bay leaves
½ tsp red chili pepper flakes
3 tbsp olive oil, plus some for drizzling over the soup.
1 medium onion, diced small
1 medium fennel bulb, tops & stalks discarded, bulb diced small
1 medium carrot, peeled & diced small
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1 can (28 oz/795ml) fire roasted tomatoes, chopped
1 2” x 4” piece of orange rind, orange part only, discard any pith
2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
For beans & broth:
1. Tie together carrot, fennel stalk (or celery) and herbs with kitchen twine and place in a large Dutch oven. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium –high heat. Reduce heat to medium low or low and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1½ hours).
2. Remove and discard the carrot bundle, onion halves and cheese rind, scraping any cheese back into the pot. Remove the garlic, let cool for a few minutes and squeeze the garlic out of the skin and add the garlic “meat” back to the pot.
The broth can be made a day or two in advance. If that’s the route you plan on taking, remove the beans and store them separately so they don’t become mushy.
For the Soup:
1. While the beans are cooking (or if you’ve done them the day before, gently warm the beans in the broth), use a large skillet set over medium high heat and add the oil, onion, fennel & carrots. Stir frequently until the vegetables are softening and starting to brown (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic & anchovies and cook until the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute).
2. Add the tomatoes and stir up any loose bits on the bottom of the pan.
3. Pour the tomato sauce into the cooked beans & broth. Add the orange rind and increase the heat to medium high. As soon as the soup comes to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until the flavors are fully blended (about 1 hour). Remove the orange peel.
4. To serve, place some spinach leaves in the bottom of the bowls and pour the soup over it. (The heat of the soup will do the perfect amount of wilting.) Taste the soup for seasoning before adding to each bowl, adding salt & pepper &/or chili pepper flakes. Stir in the chopped parsley.
Add extra parsley and grated Parmesan cheese over each bowl when serving.