As we continue on our healthy eating I was inspired by a simple dish I had in South Africa of smashed white beans with rosemary finished with olive oil.
I wanted to make something similar without quite as much fat so a soup with those herbal notes and hearty beans bloomed. To make it I dabbled in something I have never done before, and honestly don’t know why since it is one of the easiest things to do in the world, soaking then cooking beans. (I know…pretty easy).
I think it had always just been easier to work with canned beans, and for some thing (like Gary’s soon to be famous baked beans, with lots of barbecue sauce, brown sugar and beer) canned beans are great. But making this white bean soup with just a few ingredients and clean flavors, soaking the beans overnight and then cooking them with fresh herbs, onion and garlic was the trick to a rich, luscious soup without that metallic, processed flavor sometimes found in canned beans. If canned have to be used just rinse them very well.
Packed with protein, not a lot of fat, aromas that will transport you to Italy with an earthy, aromatic taste with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized veggies, and creamy texture, this soup will please. Bonus, your house will smell so yummy.
White Bean and Rosemary Soup
5 cups white beans (like Navy beans, Cannellini beans)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 medium sized yellow onions – roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves – smashed and skin removed
3 celery stalks – roughly chopped
3 carrots – roughly chopped
4 stalks fresh rosemary – about 6 inches long
2 fresh bay leaves (dried if fresh aren’t available)
7 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
6 cups good chicken stock like Cento
1 cup low fat milk, half and half, cream or fat free half and half (we used fat free half and half….all will work, the idea is to add a layer of creaminess to round out the flavors, just chose how much fat and richness you want)
Salt and pepper
Drizzle (about a tablespoon total) of good olive oil to finish, we used a roasted garlic and rosemary flavored oil
The night before you make the soup pour the beans into a bowl and cover completely with water. Soak overnight in the refrigerator. The next day drain off the water and add to a pot of clean water with about 2 tablespoons salt, 1 onion, cut into chunks, 1 garlic clove, one bay leaf and the sprigs of thyme and rosemary. Tie the thyme and rosemary with some kitchen string to keep them together and to be able to easily transfer from one pot to the other. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour or so until the beans are softened. You could just make the soup in this pot with water, but I think browning the vegetables slightly and then cooking everything together in chicken stock instead of water makes a richer soup with more depth of flavor. Meanwhile, add the rest of the veggies and the other bay leaf to a soup pot with the grapeseed oil and cook over medium heat until the veggies become soft and slightly caramelized. Season generously with salt and pepper. When the beans are soft drain off the water, reserving one or two cups of starchy water, and add the beans to the veggies with the herb bundle, the fresh parsley and the chile flakes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the remnants of the herbs bunch and the bay leaves. Working in batches begin to puree the soup until completely smooth. Add back to the soup pot and add the milk/cream/half and half. Stir to incorporate. If the soup is too thick add some of the reserved starchy water, a bit at a time, to get your desired consistency. Season and scoop into soup bowls. Drizzle with a bit of good olive oil and serve with crusty bread for dipping.