I wish I could say that the cold winter weather had me hankering for soup, but it’s been unseasonably warm and dry in my part of the world. I know it must actually be winter somewhere. I am sure we will have our winter in the middle of summer, like last year. (yes I am bitter, it was freezing last summer and this is California!) However, I am a soup person. I really love soup. Any time of year and any kind of weather. I like it as a first coarse almost exclusively. I really prefer to eat a salad at the end of my meal. I think it digests better, as weird as that may sound. My family has been getting over another round of illness (children are carrier monkeys) so I decided soup was in order.
Bean soups are very hearty, especially when combined with crusty bread. When you submerge the crusty bread in the soup, it’s really perfect. This soup is a cannellini bean soup, one of my favorite beans both for its mild flavor and its inherent creaminess. This soup behaves and tastes like a cream soup, with nothing but beans and a carrot and celery stalk. Vegan and healthy never tasted so decadent. I made croutons out of a fabulous loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread Mr Fabulous brought home from his store. Browning the bread in a pan first, with some garlic and salt and pepper, (parmesan cheese if you’re feeling it) allows the bread to be submerged in the soup, soaking up all the creamy goodness, without getting soggy. I finished my soup with a drizzle of truffle oil, as I am want to do. It would also be delicious with a drizzle of olive oil. The grassy taste of olive oil playing well with the earthiness of the beans. In this case I recommend using dried beans, if you want to substitute canned go for it, but the dried ones really do taste markedly better.
White Bean Soup
4 cups soaked cannellini beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Garlic Parmesan Croutons
2 slices sourdough or other crusty bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Soak the beans overnight, or do a quick soak by boiling the beans, then turning off the heat and letting them soak for 2 hours. Rinse and drain.
In a soup pot heat the oil then add the onion and saute on medium until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the carrot and celery, saute for 5 minutes. Add the broth and water and the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Leave the thyme sprig whole, you will fish it out later.
Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a low boil for 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme, then puree the soup in batches in a blender. Return the soup to the pot.
Salt to taste, I used low sodium vegetable broth so I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. You may need more or less.
To make the croutons cut crusty bread in 2″ cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add granulated garlic, or use garlic oil. Using fresh garlic won’t work, as it will burn before the bread is crispy enough. Saute the bread until crispy on all sides, and just before removing from the pan add the parmesan cheese. Mix well and remove from pan.