Spinach & Bean Soup
Its been a rough winter here all over the USA, not just in the Midwest or Northeast. Texas has had snow and reported below freezing temperatures. Being Italian, I never understood why people had to kill each other to go out just before or during a storm to get food. There should always be food in the freezer and/or pantry you can use immediately to make a meal without leaving the house. Its often referred to as “Pantry Cooking”. These are all the items that last for years without refrigeration like pasta, rice, beans, canned broth or vegetables, etc. There is never any reason you should not have one small corner of your pantry set aside for these items, especially in the winter. If not, put them in a shopping bag and put them in a cool dark closet, but they should always be there.
Another one of my childhood favorites was a very simple soup called Escarole & Beans. This is the same recipe, except spinach is used. The spinach can be canned or frozen, but of course it is best fresh if you are smart enough to go out shopping long before you know a storm is due to arrive. Spinach is higher in iron and does not have the bitterness that escarole might. It is not as sandy, and a bit easier to chew.
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, stems trimmed (canned or frozen obviously works too)
- 3 garlic cloves (an every day staple in any house)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cups chicken broth (I like to use 1 teaspoons of Better than Broth to each cup of water I use).
- 2 15-ounce cans white beans (I buy one can of large white to put in the blender, the other smaller beans to put in the soup, which makes it thicker and more flavorful.
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup of grated cheese (plus some extra for serving)
- 2 strips of bacon (optional, but leave it out for a vegetarian dish)
- Garlic bread optional
The method is simple since there are no vegetables to cook to get the soup started. Chop the bacon as fine as you can if you wish to add to the depth of flavor. Once crispy, add in the shaved or crushed garlic and a mere pinch of red pepper flakes. Even if you do not like spicy, this just adds flavor, if you just use a few specks, no one will notice the spiciness. Cook until fragrant.
Rinse one of the cans of beans well to get off all the preservatives and put in the blender or food processor with a little bit of water to help get them blended until smooth.
Add this to the soup pot and stir. Next add the chicken broth, bay leaf and the other can of beans whole. Bring up to a simmer and allow to cook for a few minutes so the beans are all heated through.
The last step is to add the spinach. If it is fresh, allow it to become wilted down enough so its very soft but still bright green. If it is canned, its already cooked, and if its frozen, it just needs to be heated through. Turn off the heat, slowly add in the grated cheese, stir, and serve.
I don’t like cold salad with my soup in the winter. I prefer to serve garlic bread which is super simple to make. Toast the Italian bread, rub with a clove of fresh garlic, and spread with butter or olive oil. Think of it as a giant crouton, or, cut it up into several pieces to make a bowl of them. It is a simple, hot, filling meal anyone can make if you have the skills to boil water.