Fork & Knife: Conquer the cold with soup

I hate the cold. It is the worst possible human feeling — definitely worse than anger, frustration, jealousy, heat or sickness. The cold gnaws at you, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and symbolically. New Haven’s freezing rain doesn’t help. Nor do the wind, the darkness, or the fact that the holidays are over so the cold isn’t cute or quaint anymore.

This is why I turn to soup. I find a hearty, homemade soup to be inherently therapeutic. I could talk about how it warms both your body and your soul — which it does — but I’d rather talk about how delicious it tastes. White bean soup is a personal favorite of mine. The combination of savory broth, hearty vegetables, and creamy beans pleases my taste buds and digestive track enormously (it’s a great way to add more fiber to your diet). I like to make this soup in the winter when everything seems bleak and miserable. I brighten the soup by finishing it off with a squeeze of fresh lemon and some grated Parmesan cheese, and I will almost always accompany is with a crusty baguette or hearty roll. Bread is essential in the business of eating soup. Saltines just don’t cut it.

If this soup doesn’t strike your fancy, you needn’t worry; there’s a soup out there for everyone. If only it were as easy to find a good mate as it is to find a good soup. And you can easily craft your own soup, which is also difficult to do with a mate. Don’t be intimidated if you aren’t a savvy cook — I started making soup before I could read Dr. Seuss. The beauty of soup is that there really aren’t any rules, as long as everything is well cooked and tastes palatable. Even if you just have an onion, some water, and potatoes you can make a decent soup. Just ask any Russian peasant.

Assuming you have access to more than just onions, water, and potatoes, get creative with this recipe. If you’re of the persuasion that meat makes everything better, throw in some finely cubed sausage, pancetta or bacon in with the onions. Or, if you’re looking to up your veggie intake, add finely chopped fennel, sweet potatoes corn, or even broccoli. Even mix in leftover rice or pasta.

Put down your Cup Noodles and get thee to a kitchen.

White Bean Soup

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon extra virgin oil

1 onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 (16 ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth

salt, pepper

pinch of dried thyme

2 cups water

any leafy green, rinsed and sliced thinly

1 tablespoon lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion and celery in oil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, continually stirring. Stir in beans, chicken broth, pepper, thyme and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from soup and set aside.

  3. Using a regular or immersion blender, blend the remaining soup in small batches until smooth. When blended, pour soup back into pot and stir in reserved beans.

  4. Bring to a boil. Stir in greens and cook 1 minute or until wilted. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat.

Serve immediately, preferably with Parmesan cheese grated on top.

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