In the stretch of winter, you can either brighten your day like this...
...or you can tuck yourself into your cave and put a pot of soup on the stove, adding generous portions of music to taste.
Moi? I can be so predictable.
As the year progresses and temperatures warm up, my musical choices tend toward the jazzy tunes. The synchopated rhythms and relaxed styles of Miles, Mr. Coltrane and various R&B artists seem to reflect my mood as it thaws from the winter chill.
As days grow short and the sunshine leaves town earlier and earlier, classical music pours like liquid light into darkening corners of my world.
In the same way, summers are the salad days for me – literally – while soups fill my winter kitchen with warmth and rich aromas as temperatures drop. And in this category, when January rolls around, I’m ready for a clean, brothy soup that makes me feel like I’m giving my system a shot at cleansing after a holiday season of celebrating.
My French friends near and far create a joyeux noël with generous quantities of champagne and foie gras. (Although to be honest, this holiday season was foie gras-less in my little French life. Perhaps because the fête –ing of 2009 saw me stuffed with so much of the delicacy that I began to understand the psychology of those geese waddling toward endless opportunities to gorge. I think I said something like, “I’ve had enough foie gras to see me through for a very long time.” Apparently that included this year.)
A friend of mine recently reminded me of this escarole and white bean soup, clear and flavorful, that he had prepared for me last winter. I thought you all might welcome the addition to La Fourchette’s soup collection - especially good for the new year. (Like these from last January. See what I mean? So predictable.)
Escarole is a winter green and very available right now - looking ever-so-much like backstage ballerinas, displaying feathery layers of ruffled tutus as they make last-minute adjustments to their shoes.
The bitter bite in a nibble of one of these fresh leaves is softened to a sweetness that marries beautifully with the salty parma ham as they gently simmer together in the broth. The beans add a tender and appealing texture that makes this a brilliant medley.
A quick and easy soup, this will be a perfect way to end a short January day. Count on it to warm the belly and please the palate. What’s more, you’ll feel like you’re giving your body a chance to recover from all of the holiday indulgence. Give it a sprinkle of parmesan before you dig in and I guarantee, you’ll be tucking this into your collection of “go to” recipes when each new year rolls into town.
Give it a La Fourchette twist and crank up a Bach Brandenburg Concerto, a bit of night music from Mozart, or an etude by Chopin for background accompaniment. If you don't want to brighten your days with blue hair, then ‘tis the season for classics…and soup!
Escarole and White Bean Soup
Adapted from Sunset Magazine February 2005 (and a shout out to MS for sharing from his treasure trove of recipes.)
Preparation and Cooking Time: about 30 minutes
8 ounces escarole
a slosh of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped (be more generous if you like garlicky soups!)
1/3 cup prosciutto or parma ham, thinly sliced and chopped
5 cups broth (chicken or vegetable works well here)
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans (white northern), rinsed and drained
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese
1. Cut base of escarole; rinse and drain leaves. Give them a rough chop of about ¼ inch-wide strips
2. In a 4 to 5 quart soup pot, gently heat a slosh of olive oil then add the onion, garlic and prosciutto. Stir often until the onion is limp – 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add broth and beans, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in escarole and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Add sea salt and pepper to taste (be careful with the salt here! Remember: the prosciutto is and the parmesan will be salty.)
4. Ladle into bowls and offer grated parmesan to add to taste.