Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Farro and Bean Soup

This is another dish I added to my repertoire following my trip to Lucca. Farro is a grain that you can find in health food stores and the bulk bins of specialty food markets. Tuscan restaurants serve zuppa di farro in many different styles, but the ones I liked best were creamy )from the puréed beans and potatoes) and peppery.

1½ c dried cranbery beans
5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large sprig fresh sage
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 meduim potatoes, diced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1¼ cups farro
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Place the cranberry beans in a large stockpot and cover with two inches of cold water. Let soak overnight.

2. The next day, add enough cold water so that the soaked beans are covered again by two inches. Add two of the the garlic cloves and sage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the beans are cooked, about 2 hours. While the beans are cooking, add water as necessary to replace what has evaporated.

3. Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining garlic along with the onion, carrot, and celery. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-low flame. Sauté the chopped vegetables until they soften and begin to caramelize, about 10–12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomatoes begin to dissolve into the other vegetables, about 6–8 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another 6–8 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the cooking beans.

4. When the beans are cooked, purée the soup, preferably using an immersion blender. Add enough water so that the soup will be thin enough to cook the farro. Season heavily with salt and especially pepper. (I add a full tablespoon of pepper.)

5. Add the farro and rosemary and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for at least an hour. If the soup becomes too thick, add more water. Reheat as necessary before serving.

• The mixture of onion, carrot, and celery is a staple of European cooking. The French call it mirepoix, while the Italians call it soffritto. The ratio is usually 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot to 1 part celery.

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