Note: Hey Kids, I've been tweaking the soup a bit, so I made some revisions to this recipe.
Soup. Nothing could be easier, and more welcome on a chilly night. And I bet you're thinking "But Matt, unless I open up a can, soup takes ALL day." To which I respond...
escarole and bean soup (revised 1/10/09 - revisions bolded)
1 Tbsp pure olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cooked Italian sausage links, diced*
1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic ("jarlic" is just fine for this)
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
2 quarts good chicken stock
1-15.5 oz. can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. orzo (rosa marina) pasta, cooked to package directions
15 c. chopped escarole
pinch of kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
*again, I'm using pre-cooked Italian sausage from a local shop. Try this: next time you're cooking sausage, cook a few extra and stash 'em in your freezer.
1. In a stock pot over low heat, sweat the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil, with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
2. When the onion is almost translucent, add the garlic and sausage to brown.
3. After the sausage has browned a bit, add the red pepper flakes, oregano and parsley, and continue browning.
4. When browning is done, add about 1/2 c. of the chicken stock to deglaze the pot and recover all the tasty bits of onion and sausage that stuck to the bottom.
5. Once the pot is deglazed, add the remaining chicken stock, and increase the heat to medium-high. You'll want to bring the broth to boil for a about a minute or two before reducing the heat back to medium.
6. While the stock is heating, add the rinsed, drained cannellini beans to allow then to heat through.
7. Now's the time to also add the orzo. The orzo will continue to cook in the soup, so it's not a bad idea to undercook it just a bit.
8. Once the soup has come to a boil, reduce the heat to low, add all of the escarole to the pot and slap on the lid for 5-10 minutes.
Psst... come here... closer... I want to share a little 'soup secret'... just before you declare your soup 'done', add two tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pot and allow it to melt in. The butter adds a nice finish to the taste, and a nice shimmer to the broth. Trust me, this will make your diners go "oooooo".
Ladle up the soup into bowls, and garnish with whatever you choose. Personally, I like some parsley and some cubes of romano cheese (does fresh baked bread count as a garnish?) Need to 'brighten' the flavor up a bit? Just add a quick squeeze of lemon juice.
This is a great recipe for planned leftovers, or for preparing and freezing for later... somehow, leftovers never seem to make it to the freezer 'round here. :)