Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Borlotti Bean and Spelt Berry Soup

In the ongoing project of convincing myself that $42 is a reasonable investment in a bottle of olive oil, last night I decided to make Tuscan-style farro and bean soup, which is not ready to eat until it is drizzled with the stuff. I was a little put out when I had to settle for spelt berries at Provisions ("What? No farro in this entire village?!?"), but when I cooked the spelt I was delighted by its wholesome, nutty flavor and toothsome texture. I used dried Rancho Gordo Borlotti beans, but you could use any beans you like. To turn my soup into a one-dish meal, I stirred half a bunch of chopped kale into the pot right before serving. Here is the recipe:

Borlotti Bean and Spelt Soup
Serves 4 to 6

Frugal like the most traditional Tuscan cook, I used my inexpensive olive oil to saute the vegetables, reserving the good stuff for drizzling.

1 cup dried Borlotti beans, soaked for 4 to 8 hours
8 cups water
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 cup spelt berries
1 sprig sage leaves
One 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 bunch kale, tough stems removed, chopped

1. Place the beans and 5 cups of water in a medium pot, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Puree 1 cup of the mixture in a blender and return it to the pot.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, onion, and celery, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 cups water, spelt, 1 teaspoon salt, and sage, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover, and cook until the spelt is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
3. Stir the bean mixture into the spelt mixture along with the tomatoes and kale and cook until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in more salt to taste. Ladle into bowls, drizzle each portion with a healthy amount of your best olive oil, and serve.

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