Monday, February 4, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup With Vegan Bacon And Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Tuscan Bean Soup With Bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano

A few years ago a friend of mine surprised me with a copy of the cookbook, A Twist Of The Wrist authored by Nancy Silverton, a renowned local chef and restaurateur.

The book features uncomplicated, rustic dishes from Nancy and other contributing chefs such as Mario Batali and Susan Feniger.  The genesis of the book was Silverton's observation that people weren't cooking at home and were instead turning to "take out". Aiming to enable people to cook a quick meal at home which rivaled what restaurants were turning out, she amassed this collection of recipes. Their commonality?  Each  calls for a ready-made ingredient that shaves prep time without compromising the integrity of the dish.

I reached a point where I had a sea of cookbooks and couldn't see through the clutter to get to this one. When I performed the difficult task of purging my collection of cookbooks a few months ago - those that were full of complicated recipes or those that were not aligned with the Savory, Sweet And Spicy mission, I was was pleased to rediscover A Twist Of The Wrist.

This is Nancy Silverton's recipe which she says is a take on pasta a fagiole, a childhood favorite of mine.  She lightened it up by swapping out noodles for cabbage which gives the dish a slightly sweet flavor. I've lightened it up further - the original recipe calls for prosciutto and I have instead used vegan bacon.  And if you are vegan... this soup has such a solid flavor profile that you can leave out the cheese and still enjoy.

Tuscan Bean Soup With Vegan Bacon And Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

4 15-oz cans of cans of Italian butter beans {or any giant white beans such as cannelini or borlotti}
2 T minced garlic
3 t kosher salt
2 t fresh thyme leaves
4 large basil leaves
2 c shredded Napa cabbage
olive oil for drizzling
4 strips of vegan bacon, crumbled {recipe here, it's quick to make and can be frozen and brought out in small quantities for occasions like this}
Small wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a saucepan, combine the beans and their liquid with the garlic, salt, thyme, basil and 2 c of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes to meld the flavors. Remove 1 c + 1/2 c beans, returning any garlic of basil back into the pan. Use an immersion blender,  blend the remaining beans in the saucepan until smooth. {If you don't have an immersion blender, you can let the soup cool and puree it in a blender or food processor - making sure your lid is tight.} Stir in the reserved beans and cabbage and thin the soup if necessary with more water. Cook the soup over medium heat until the cabbage is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.

Divide the soup evenly among 4 bowls and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Grate a thin layer of cheese over each bowl. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Give it all a good stir.
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Source:  Adapted from A Twist Of The Wrist, Nancy Silverton

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