Minestrone with Giant White Beans

I dislike it when people say that "cooking takes no time at all." Cooking takes a lot of time. 

I happen to know because I've spent the last three hours in the kitchen, worrying over some beans that refuse to cook through. 
I know what it's like. 

That said, I find that in moments of transition, or anxiety or general malaise, the kitchen is usually the best place to be, even if you end up spending hours there. It makes you feel like you're doing things. Even if your version of doing things is spending three hours on a soup that you're not even sure you're going to like. But you can drink red wine alone and not feel weird about it, and listen to rap music that everyone but you already knows, and chop zucchini for hours until you've convinced yourself that you're really doing things.

I got Ruth Reichl's new book recently. She was the former editor of the now defunct food-porn mag Gourmet, and recently came out with a cookbook called My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life. Her life was not especially in need of saving compared to a lot of people,  but all the same, it's a nice book. I love Ruth. I love her hair. I love her books.  But mostly I love the way she talks about the healing power of home cooking, how it can serve as a meditation and a tactile expression of self. In Ruth Reichl's world, home cooking bestows the illusion of control. I love this.

Anyways, the point is, things are good, even if they sometimes take longer than I think they should.  And in the meantime making I'm making soup. I'm actually doing things. 
I don't know. 

I love you I love you I love you. 

xoxo 

 

Minestrone with Giant White Beans and Winter Squash

from the New York Times

Note: This calls for a "garni," something I have no time for and so did not do. Additionally, I used zucchini instead of "winter squash." Also, if using gigande beans PLEASE soak them for the love of god. Everything takes forever otherwise. Also, have you looked at the New York Times food section online?? That shit is crazy. It's an amazing resource. 

FOR THE BEANS

6 ounces (1 cup) giant white beans such as Royal Corons, gigandes (giant white beans), or large dried limas, washed, picked over and soaked for 4 hours or longer (no need to soak limas or large white beans)

1/2 medium onion

1 bay leaf

2 quarts water

salt to taste

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

FOR THE SOUP

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (1/2 inch dice or smaller if desired) 

1 celery stalk, diced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 or 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved, cleaned well and sliced thin

3 or 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced

1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice

a bouquet garni made with a parmesan rind, a bay leaf, and a couple sprigs each parsley and thyme, tied into one of the leek leaves if desired

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound winter squash, diced

lots of chopped flat leaf parsley or basil (or both)

PREPARATION

  1. First simmer beans. Drain soaked beans and place in a large saucepan with 2 quarts water, halved onion, crushed garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Add salt to taste (I usually use 1 teaspoon salt per quart of water) and continue to simmer another 30 minutes. Beans should be almost tender. Remove from heat and use tongs to remove and discard onion half, garlic cloves and bay leaf.
  2. While beans are simmering you can make tomato base. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add onion, carrot and celery. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until vegetables are just about tender, about 5 minutes, and add parsley and leeks. Cook, stirring, until leeks are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes, and stir in garlic along with another generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, just until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and stir in tomatoes with their juice and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant. Remove from heat until beans are ready.
  3. Add beans and their broth to tomato base, stir together, add bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add winter squash and continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, until squash and beans are very tender. Taste, adjust salt, and add freshly ground pepper to taste.
  4. Just before serving heat through and stir in a generous handful of chopped fresh parsley or basil, or a mix of the two. Serve, topping each bowl with freshly grated Parmesan.