Friday, September 11, 2015

Beany bisque

I have a bean conundrum.  There are dishes I like beans in; there are dishes I despise beans in.  I hate beans in chili.  I love beans simmered with olive oil and sage and dolloped on top of crostini.  I'm on the fence about pasta and beans.  I love pasta and ceci.

It's utterly irrational.

I came across this recipe watching Lidia Bastianich.  She made a very simple bean soup with almost nothing -- beans, tomatoes, some garlic, and water.  The true povera cucina.  Completely meatless.  Vegan, even.

I liked the idea she had about pureeing half the beans, but she left the rest whole.  I didn't like that.  See above.

So, I made the soup, pureed all the beans, but also jazzed it up a bit, adding onion in the initial saute, some tomato paste to amp up the tomato flavor, and then some additional seasonings later on.

The result was awesome.  The great flavor of the beans is there, but not the mouth feel of beans in the soup.  The texture of the soup was like a bisque -- a roux-thickened soup, typically made with shellfish -- and classically, with pulverized shellfish shells, like lobster or shrimp shells, which lend not only flavor, but color and texture, from the chitin and chitosan in the shells.  So I called it "beany bisque."

The pasta added at the end gives a nice texture and body to the soup, but you could easily leave it out if you wanted to.

In a 5-qt Dutch oven:

1/4 c olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 onion, finely chopped

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until softened.  Add 6 Tbp flour to make a roux.  Add about 1 qt water and cook several minutes to thicken.

Add 1 can crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that have been crushed, or about 6 fresh tomatoes which have been cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped), and 1 Tbp tomato paste. 

Cook tomatoes about 15 minutes (less for the canned crushed tomatoes, more for the fresh tomatoes).  Puree the sauce with an immersion blender until smooth. 

At this point, you have a reasonably good tomato soup. 

Open a 15-oz can of cannellini beans.  Rinse.  Process in a blender with about a cup of water until it is a smooth puree.  Add to the tomatoes. 

Add about another 4 cups water.  Season well with salt and pepper.  A squirt of Worcestershire and a couple squirts of hot sauce add a nice touch, too.  A 1/2 tsp of thyme would add a nice flavor here, too, if you'd like to add some. 

Bring to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes.  Add 2 cups cooked pasta (like orzo or ditalini).  Heat through. 

Serve, passing cheese at the table.