Thursday, February 23, 2012
White Bean and Vegetable Soup for a Winter Supper
Let me begin by saying I love this soup. Granted, I am a soup lover, but this is one I always look forward to. After a day spent in the snow, a fragrant bowl of White Bean and Vegetable Soup is enticing and draws us back inside. Soup warms you in a deeply satisfying way, much like sinking into a soft, hand-knit sweater does.
What attracts me to this soup in particular is its star ingredient, balsamic vinegar. There are so many ways to love balsamic vinegar (I now have a love affair going with caramelized balsamic vinegar since discovering it in Australia). Here, balsamic vinegar adds incredible richness and flavor to the mélange of white beans, tomatoes and veggies.
It’s a terrific soup for whatever is in the fridge – any diced root vegetables such as rutabagas, Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes or parsnips can be added. A handful of green beans tossed in with some fresh dill would change up the flavors nicely.
The key here is the combination of balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and red wine which creates a luscious basis for the soup. I don’t usually measure the balsamic vinegar - I tend to start with a few splashes and taste from there to see how it mixes and infuses with the rest of the ingredients.
Light some candles, grate some Parmesan, warm a crusty baguette and you’ll have a lovely winter supper to share with friends.
White Bean and Vegetable Soup
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 ribs celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 quart organic vegetable broth
3 15 ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Crushed red chile peppers (optional)
Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
Baguette for dipping
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they start softening, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, celery and carrots and give the vegetables a stir. Cook until they begin softening, about 10 minutes. Add another few tablespoons of olive oil if the mixture seems dry. Toss in the cabbage and continue cooking for a few more minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the vegetable broth, white beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine. Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the broth begins to bubble up a bit, then turn the heat down to low, partially cover the pot and let simmer for about an hour. Check the soup a few times to stir it, taste for salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and to see if the veggies are softened.
Towards the end of cooking, stir in the parsley and a few shakes of crushed red chile peppers if desired. The soup can be made a day ahead or earlier in the morning and reheated before serving (it improves if given some time to sit).
Serve with Parmesan cheese and additional olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling. Dip crusty hunks of baguette in to the soup and enjoy.