So I've been reading–and thinking–a lot about the phenomenon of "stunt writing." It was a comment from Summer that got me started:
I'm currently reading nothing but Entertainment Weekly magazine and
lamenting my lack of good reading material. Oddly enough, in this weeks
Weekly, it compiled a list of books written by people who completed a
years-worth long of "something" be it, a Jewish person living like a
Christian, or A man and his homely mutt training to win the Agility Dog
championships….call me crazy but I might start a year long list to
finish all the books on that list. And then of course write a book
Obvs. that is an extremely fantastic idea, and I wish Summer the best of luck with it.
The notion led me to contemplate the success of blogs like A Year of Slow Cooking, the new book Living Oprah, and of course the ultimate stuntblog success: The Julie/Julia Project. And since I've never heard of an idea that I didn't immediately try to figure out how to turn into some self-aggrandizing thing, I thought…
"You know, I make a lot of soup. A LOT of soup. I should probably blog about that. Hell, I should probably HAVE a blog about that. Yes! A blog about soup. A different soup every day for a year. I can do that. I'm cooking anyway, and I'm screwing around uselessly on the computer anyway, and I can combine the two and HEY PRESTO! Soup for a year and let's see what happens. Fame! Fortune! Adulation! Recognition in the Powell's cooking section! Or at least the opportunity to eat lots of soup!"
So this is my commencement. With soup. And photographs. By my sweetie.
Pasta e Fagioli
[adapted from the Moon River Collection Cookbook, published by the Savannah Landings Landlovers and apparently not really available anymore, which is too bad because it's a great cookbook]
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 slices prosciutto, chopped, optional, but lending the soup a lovely flavor; one could also use pancetta, which is what Beloved Sweetie was supposed to pick up at the store and which would be rather more similar to the bacon specified in the original recipe; but prosciutto worked out fine; bacon probably would too, and mean one didn't need to add quite so much salt
A mirepoix (about which, more to come) consisting of one cup each chopped carrots, celery and onion
A teaspoon or so of red chile flakes (about which, again, more to come)
Three or four healthy cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used half homemade turkey stock and half Better than Bouillon; if you're using canned broth, just go for three cans and make up the difference with water if it seems too thick)
Four cups cooked kidney beans, or three 15-ounce cans, drained and well rinsed, divided
One cup small shell or macaroni pasta–the original recipe called for 1.5 cups, which was rather too much
Salt (generous) and black pepper (less generous)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley and grated Parmesan for serving
Heat the olive oil in a largeish soup pot over medium heat; add prosciutto and mirepoix; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more. *
Add stock; bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree about two-thirds of the beans until smooth. If your food processor is aging gracelessly, like mine, you may need to add up to half a cup of stock or water to allow the beans to puree smoothly and prevent the food processor from choking on the solid and thoroughly unappetizing-looking beany mass. Persevere. The final product will be worth it.
Now you have a choice to make: either scoop out all or part of the vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree them until smooth, or do as I did and just stick an immersion blender in for a few seconds and puree the whole thing briefly but not completely. Then return the soup to the heat and add the bean puree, stirring thoroughly to incorporate; sprinkle in the pasta; bring the whole thing to a boil and let it cook at a low rolling boil until the pasta is tender, about another 7 to 10 minutes. Pay attention to the state of the pasta, because it will be quite disappointingly yucky if it gets overdone.
Check for seasoning; this will probably take considerable salt, especially if you use home-cooked or low-sodium canned beans. Grind in some black pepper.
Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a delicate snowdrift of Parmesan overtop.
This soup thickens considerably on standing, so you may wish to do as I did and thin the leftovers with a cup or two of water or additional stock (if you use water, add more salt and pepper too) before packaging up and refrigerating.
Makes, roughly, a ton. Fortunately, it's quite tasty.
Tomorrow: Spaghetti Soup, in honor of the return of the Young Heathens from the wilds of Western Colorado, and maybe some more musings about the nature of this project, or maybe not.
*One of these days I'm going to write about how Harold McGee and Shirley Corriher taught me not to add the garlic with the rest of the aromatics. Thanx, guyz!