Garlic-Lovers' Tuscan Bean Soup with Freshly-Made Rosemary Croutons
My daughter seems to be alright whenever I serve her white beans that are pureed into a smooth soup. Having previously opted for a very simple version of pureed White Bean soup, I thought it might be time to push things a bit with a more complex composition that provides a variety of flavors and textures.
This is my version of a Tuscan Bean Soup. As always, I have tried to keep the recipe simple – with easy-to-find ingredients, short prep and cooking time, and easy steps that result in an awesome and filling meal. I must warn you, though, that preparation of this soup initially seems more complicated than other recipes and involves a number of pots and other containers. Once you've done it, it will seem far less intimidating than just reading the instructions makes it sound...
Ingredients for the Soup:
1 large can of Cannellini beans (or, two smaller ones – this recipe readily accommodates varying amounts of beans).
1 can small white beans or Navy beans.
3 cups of water.
2 Tbs Olive Oil (Extra Virgin or Regular is fine, too).
1 ½ cups of chopped onion.
1 Tbs fresh Sage, chopped.
2 Tbs fresh Rosemary, chopped.
2 Bay Leaves.
½ tsp dried basil.
Salt and Pepper
8 garlic cloves (yup, this recipe packs a punch!), chopped.
¼ cup white wine (since this recipe is Italian in nature, I usually stick to a Pino Grigio).
2 cups of soup stock (I use veggie stock).
½ lb. Fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped.
Ingredients for the Rosemary Croutons:
4 Tbs Olive Oil (again, it doesn't matter which type you use, but I usually have Extra Virgin on hand and use it here).
1 garlic clove.
4 slices of baguette (at least ½ inch thick).
1 Tbs Fresh Rosemary, chopped.
Heat a small pot of water until boiling.
While the water comes to a boil, fill a medium bowl with icy water (or just cold water).
Perforate the tomato skins with a knife as though you were cutting the tomatoes into quarters, from stem to bottom. Don't actually slice the tomatoes – you simply want the skin to be cut.
Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and let steep for a minute until you see some of the skin loosen.
Remove tomatoes from the boiling water and drop into the icy/cold water.
Leave them there for now...
Empty the pot with the boiling water and refill it again with 3 cups of water.
Drain all your beans and add them to the water.
Add the two Bay leaves.
Bring to a boil while you start on the next step.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil.
Add the chopped onions, ½ tsp salt, a bit of pepper to taste, and the dried basil.
Saute over medium heat until the onion is tender – roughly 5 to 7 minutes.
While the onions are softening, remove the tomatoes from the cold water and remove the skins. Slice them into quarters around the core, discard the core, and remove the seeds with your fingers.
Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
By now, the onions should be soft and thus, let's get back to our active cooking process:
Add the chopped garlic to the onions and saute for another 2 minutes.
Add the wine and let steep for a minute or two until there's only a bit of liquid left.
Now add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about ten minutes or so.
If you have a food mill, you can now remove the bay leaves from the beans (but don't discard them just yet). Reserve about 1 cup of beans that will NOT go through the food mill. All other beans and liquid need to be processed through a food mill. Make sure you scrape all of the pureed beans into the onion/tomato mixture – there are no bad parts here that need to be discarded.
If you don't have a food mill, simply remove the bay leaves (but don't discard them just yet) and reserve one cup of beans. Puree the rest with whatever small appliance you have – an immersion blender or a food processor will work fine. Add the pureed beans to the onion/tomato mixture.
Add the reserved beans and the two bay leaves to the soup.
Add the two coups of soup stock.
Add ½ tsp of salt.
Add a pinch of pepper as well.
Add the chopped fresh rosemary.
Add the chopped fresh sage.
Bring to a light boil until all the ingredients are hot.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Reduce heat and keep warm.
Take the baguette slices and cut into little cubes – what
ever size you deem desirable. Keep in mind, though, that the soup will ultimately soften the cubes and that really small cubes tend to disintegrate into a mushy substance...
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and toss the bread cubes into the oil, stirring frequently to ensure that the cubes are nicely coated. Most of the oil will be readily absorbed by the bread. Toss and stir until the bread cubes attain a nice golden color on just about all sides.
Add the chopped rosemary and toss until nicely distributed.
Put the garlic into a garlic press and add the resulting garlic mush to the bread cubes.
Toss or stir for just a few seconds and then remove. Make sure the garlic does not burn or get too dark as doing so will make it bitter.
Ladle soup into bowls, grate some fresh Parmesan onto the soup, scoop a few croutons onto the Parmesan, and grate some more Parmesan on top.
Serve and indulge!