I feel like it’s been forever since I was here. I’ve missed blogging! But, while I have enormous respect for pigs and enjoy eating them on occasion, I simply couldn’t bring myself to write anymore posts about the pork that took center stage of my food life for the past couple of weeks. And then I got the flu. Which kinda sucked. It was mild as far as these things go, but it did not make for a productive week. Oh well. I’m back now. And I found/created a great recipe for vegetarian pasta e fagiole! In the slow cooker!! Totally exciting.
This recipe is based on two others, one from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780307336798-9), the other from Elizabeth Berry’s Great Bean Book (http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Berrys-Great-Bean-Book/dp/1580080316). The two are quite similar in that the primary ingredients are beans, water, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and olive oil. But there are important differences.
Alice Waters’ recipe, which is vegetarian, calls for fresh shell beans, which are not available now, in early March, at least not in Chicago. So I didn’t try it. But I was drawn to the freshness. Especially because I did try the recipe in Elizabeth Berry’s book. Which was very good. But it calls for bacon. So I didn’t post about it because, well, as I said above, I couldn’t bring myself to write anymore about cooking or eating pig. Even though it is delicious. Plus, the soup I had in my mind’s eye was hearty and substantial, but not quite so heavy.
2 cups dried cranberry beans
1/3 c. olive oil
1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced (about 1 c.)
1 large carrot, diced (about 1/2 c.)
1 large rib celery, diced (about 1/3 c.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 dried chili pepper, crumbled
1/2 t. dried sage
1 thumb-sized piece kombu
7 c. water
1/2 lb. pasta (broken noodles or small shapes)
1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it begins to shimmer. Saute the onions, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Remove from heat.
2. Rinse the beans, discard any that are broken, and place in the insert of your slow cooker, if using. Otherwise place in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the sauteed vegetables, tomato, chili pepper, sage, kombu, and water. If using the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the beans are soft. It will probably take about 3 hours if you’re using the stove. Add 3 t. salt. Remove about one half of the beans. Puree the remainder. You can make ahead up to this point.
3. Just before serving, cook the pasta in well-salted water until tender. Add the pasta and the reserved beans to the soup. Note that if you’re not planning to serve the entire batch of soup now, you won’t need to cook all the pasta. Only cook enough for the meal. Check for salt and add more if necessary. Serve with additional olive oil. For non-vegans, Parmesan cheese is also nice. And, while it’s in no way traditional, I’ll probably add cooked kale at least once in the coming week and later, when I’m eating leftovers. Of which there are a lot. As always, I’m grateful that beans freeze so well. Because I know I will be very happy to find single-size portions in the freezer in weeks to come.