Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Rhythms

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!

Bon appétit!


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

Serves 4

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.


Carla said...

HI Leslie, thanks for the soup recipe.. Love your pics.. You make me feel like I am there. Carla

Sara Louise said...

Bon appétit indeed! This looks delicious!
I too like a little Classical while I'm cooking, that and a nice glass of wine and I'll happily spend an evening pottering around the kitchen. Tonight I'm making Julia's, Potage Creme aux Oignons, but I think next week I'll have to give your recipe a go :-)

leslie said...

Hi leslie,
The way you discribe this soup made my mouth water. This is what we will be dining on tonight. Expecting yet another snow storm on Wed. in the northeast. 9" or so! Lots of hot soup needed here.

Bonnie said...

That backpack scares me.
I want it.

donna said...

i made your soupe brule graisse last night, and it reminds me of a warm gazpacho.....without the chilies....hubby loved it too....i am making a different soup each week this winter... i CAN'T make soup without listening to classical music!!!!! (mostly KUSC)

Char said...

lovely thoughts about soup and the winter. i am much slower in the cold weather, leaning towards beefy or spicy things. but yes, trapped inside i too am like the geese and tend to gorge while standing at the pantry bored

la fourchette said...

Carla, Thanks...and thanks. (I do not *love* that incandescent light for shooting food...but I tend to eat the stuff in the evenings and with a growling tummy, the light becomes quite secondary!)

Sara Louise, I have a hunch that you won't be disappointed in this little recette. And Julia's Potage Creme aux Oignons will definitely be simmering on my little stove in the near future! Mmmmm...I had an immediate hunger reaction!

leslie, *perfect* for tucking in ahead of a snowstorm! Got some crusty bread on hand? A chunk of cheese? You're good to go! Stay warm!

Bonnie, you made me laugh out loud! That backpack definitely makes a statement! What you cannot see in this shot taken on the run is his white glasses frames - this guy was dripping with style!

donna, that's a perfect description of the Brule graisse soup! Glad you liked it. There's another soup on the way next week...I'm with you about the soup each week! Wait 'til we get to my modified "Brush Your Colon" soup! ;}

Char, Thanks for your kind in Aix en Provence is the first time I've lived in a real winter. Sounds like you're a pro at the whole hibernation thing. I really *get* it on an entirely, new level these days.

Thanks to all for pulling up to the table for a slurp of soup and some chat!


Betty C. said...

Hello and thank you for your visit to my blog. I used to be pretty "up" on French expat blogs, but kind of dropped out over the past year. I see you have been blogging a while -- but not that frequently, until now at least. Are you trying for a post a day?

And do you play the violin? (I do) I like your lovely violin picture.

Bye for now...

la fourchette said...

Betty C., let's just say I've been figuring out the world of blogging and I may have landed on a fashion that fits for my little (French) life. And you, m'dear, I had to follow all over the place to nail you down to a location...I'm still not sure if I've got the right place, but I'll keep showing up to see if I'm at the right address. The photo (and thanks for your kind words) is of the violin of a professional musician for whom I did photos. Me, I play the flute.
See you place or t'other!

Betty C. said...

Indeed, I have been a woman of many blogs. My main blog was a "charming expat life" blog called "La France Profonde" -- I kept it up for 5 years, before starting anew with this space, "The world from my windows":

la fourchette said...

Betty, I can appreciate the process, by all means! Bravo on "The World From My Windows"! And for returning to school! Bon courage - for both.


Betty C. said...

Uh...returning to school? I return to school several times a years -- I'm a teacher!

la fourchette said...

Hi Betty, see...I think I was following some links and landed somewhere that I thought was you and may have totally gotten things confused. It wouldn't be the fist time. I'll see if I can back track and find the lost thread. Sorry for the mix-up! Yay you - by the way. I'm one of those people supporting big pay raises for teachers! Fingers crossed.

Zzie said...

Hello Leslie,

Love your beautiful photos. As my hubby's from North of France, we have soups almost every evening meals in winter and I will try your recette!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

la fourchette said...

Zzie, Thanks! Enjoy!

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