Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Beans and Vegetable Soup

My first job out of law school was at a civil litigation firm in the Ironbound district of Newark. Now, the Ironbound has a myriad of places for lunch, but one of my favorites was soup from Spain Restaurant. The restaurant has a different soup, for each day of the week. My personal favorite was on Fridays, when they would serve white bean and vegetable soup. I have moved on to a different law firm, but I will always remember this soup.

I found this soup to be very similar to the “Greens and Beans” soup in Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals, but Spain put in more vegetables, so I added carrots, onions, and celery. I also added some chicken to make it a heartier meal.

White Bean and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Rachael Ray, 30 Minute Meals

2 carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth)
1 can (15 oz.) cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 head escarole, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a large stockpot. Saute chicken until lightly brown on all sides.* Remove and set aside. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. (You may need to add more oil to prevent burning). Push the vegetables to the sides of the pot, creating a space at the center of the pot. Drizzle about a teaspoon of oil into the center and add garlic to that space. Cook for about thirty seconds before stirring it into the rest of the vegetables.** Add escarole with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Cook until the escarole wilts. Add beans and broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes. When there is about 2 minutes left in the cooking time, add chicken. Serves 4-6.

* If making a vegetarian version, skip this step.
** I learned this trick from Cook’s Illustrated – it helps to prevent burnt garlic.

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