Deborah Madison’s White Bean & Black Kale Minestra with Farro

Ask me my favorite chef, and I will abruptly and gleefully shout, “DEB MADISON!” The woman, simply put, is a genius. Though her cookbooks are vegetarian, she has been known to indulge in meat, and thus fully comprehends the full spectrum of flavor that a dish needs. You have never tasted a soup as flavorful as one of Deb’s – they are simply unmatched by anything I’ve ever ordered/made/tasted/dreamt about. The basis of her deep levels of flavor come from her fondness of stocks, or in this recipe’s case, the bean stock composed of the bean’s cooking water as well as dried herbs and “aromatics” as she calls them. That’s another thing I love about her – the way she writes about food is poetic without veering into pretentious territory. Her cookbooks are brimming with her musings – musings that both inform and delight – and that clearly come from a lifelong passion. Her cooking is infectious – and begs you to push yourself in your own cooking.

Oh, and the next time someone rips on Italian food and groans about how unhealthy it is, whip out this recipe, ok? Cannellini beans, farro, and kale – all staples of the Italian kitchen – convene in this wondrous pot of nutritional, not to mention culinary, delight. Literally, one of the most flavorful, satisfying soups you’ll ever make.

Cannellini Bean & Kale Soup with Farro

1 1/4 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
3 large parsley branches
1 1/4 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup farro, thoroughly rinsed and soaked for at least 1 hour
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups yellow onion, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
A few tablespoons of red wine
6 cups kale leaves, torn into bite size pieces
14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper (about 1 teaspoon should suffice)

1.) Drain beans and place them in a large pot with 11 cups of water, garlic, sage, bay leaves, and parsley branches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until beans are tender; about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how old your beans are. When beans are done, remove from heat, pick out garlic and parsley branches, and leave beans sitting in their liquid.

2.) Drain beans by placing colander atop a large bowl to catch their liquid. Remove parsley branches.

3.) Grab your trusty dutch oven and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes; until soft and beginning to get all brown, fragrant, and delicious. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently and reducing the heat slightly, if necessary, to ensure that nothing burns.

4.) Work the tomato paste into the the vegetable mixture and continue stirring until the bottom of the pan becomes glossy and brown. Add wine to deglaze the pan and use your wooden spoon to scrape up all the yummy browned bits.

5.) Drain the farro and add it to the pot along with the kale, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pot of the beans and their liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until farro is tender; about 30 minutes.

6.) Season with more salt, if necessary, and pepper. Serve with a chunk of rustic, peasanty bread.

This recipe was adapted from Vegetable Soups by the grand dame of soups, Deborah Madison. Published by Broadway Books; February 2006.

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