This past week has been unseasonably cold in Brooklyn. Once upon a time, I remember winters where there would be snow on the ground from December to March and hats, scarves and gloves where essential, not just fashionable. Years ago, weeks like this would be a bit chilly but close to the norm. But these days, with the thermometer hovering around 40°F all winter, a morning in the teens (with a real feel of -1°F) is pretty damn cold. It’s the first time that I noticed my window’s aren’t as insulated as they should be and that draft from under the AC units makes the room really freaking cold. I’ve forced myself to go outside when necessary, even drag myself the chilly 6 blocks to the gym, but really all I want to do is stay inside, bundled in blankets, eating soup and stews.
It always amazed me how much soup makes things better. A simple dish can soothe away the winter blues, cure (or at least help) a cold and warn the depths of your soul. The lack of cold winters actually disappoints me a bit. I hate the cold, probably more than most people. I hate the heat too, actually and think the weather should hover between 50-80°F always. But seriously, when it’s winter, you want soup. And really, who wants to eat a hearty bowl of soup when its 55°F and sunny outside?
So for the past week we lived on soups and stews, and while I was cold and annoyed that I felt trapped in my own apartment, I savored every minute of cooking and eating. There will be more soup and stew recipes, I promise, but for now, one of my favorite standbys–Tuscan White Bean Soup. I use dried beans for this soup. You can speed it up by using canned beans, but I doubt the levels of favor will be the same. The soup cooks and simmers for most of the day, leaving your home smelling amazing and your mouth watering until dinner time.
A few notes before the recipe: While escarole is the normal addition, I usually use whatever greens I have on hand. Spinach, chard and kale all work great. I added sausage, per my husband’s request, but the soup can easily be made vegetarian by just omitting the sausage.
Tuscan White Bean Soup (Serves A LOT–at least 6 with leftovers)
- 2 c dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
- 4 c water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery ribs, diced
- 4 c vegetable broth
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving