Tuesday, November 1, 2011

That winter thing

It's definitely going to do the winter thing here this year. Not that I really thought it wouldn't...but the warmer temps we've had until recently made me irrationally hopeful. The crazy storm that dumped a foot of snow in Western Massachusetts and other places, along with mornings in the low to mid-30's, have brought me back to reality. That reality means soup.

Tonight's soup was a variation on one I've made often. It's an escarole and bean concoction that I remember my mom making occasionally. I LOVE escarole. There's something wonderful about it's rather squeaky texture and earthy, herby bitterness that makes me happy. And unlike most lettuces, which it is similar to in raw texture, escarole is great raw and cooked. I can't say I've ever enjoyed cooked lettuce. It tastes rotten to me. Anyway, back to dinner.

I decided to combine some flavors I've been reading about in Melissa Clark's new book, Cook This Now. (Love her writing. I'm most happy about having discovered her and Nigel Slater this year.) The resulting soup was great; warming, hearty but not heavy, and perfect for dipping bread into the broth.

Escarole and Bean Soup with Pancetta
By Me

3 tbsp olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup pancetta, diced small
4-6 anchovies
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into small-ish pieces
Scant tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Scant tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups beans (I used cranberry beans I had in the freezer, but any white and/or creamy mild bean will work, like canelinni...which I suddenly can't remember how to spell...)
1 large head escarole, chopped
Parmigiano cheese for topping

1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon; reserve.
2. Add the anchovies to the oil on the pot and stir until they "melt" into the oil, about 1 minute. Add the garlic through parsley, a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots begin to soften, about five minutes.
3. Add the wine or vermouth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes.
4. Add 6 cups of the broth and the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer about five minutes. Taste the broth and adjust gently for seasoning. Add the escarole and stir until just wilted, (add more broth now if you think you need it) taste again for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as necessary. Add the pancetta back to the soup.
5. Ladle into bowls, and top with cheese, if desired.

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