We’ve lately taken to letting SMEs Junior pick his way through our sizable cookbook collection, selecting recipes to make. The kid is nails in the restaurant-ordering department, so we figured, “How bad could it be?” So far he’s picked out a delicious and dead-simple Bangkok Soup and this, a Tuscan Five-Bean Soup from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria. It’s also shockingly simple and will blow you away with flavor. A stunning winter meal.
Tuscan Five-Bean Soup
1/2 cup each of dried cranberry (borlotti) beans, dried red lentils, dried green lentils, dried green split peas and dried navy or cannellini beans, pearled barley
3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Several sprigs of fresh thyme, bay leaves, sage leaves, celery leaves, tied in a bundle with cotton twine
3 quarts (3 liters) water
Salt to taste
Olive oil for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse all beans, lentils and barley in a colander under cold water and set aside. In a large stockpot, combine olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the legumes and barley, stir to coat with oil, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the water and stir. Cover, bring to a gentle simmer over moderate heat and cook until the outer shells of the largest beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Add the salt and cook until tender, 15 to 45 minutes longer. Stir occasionally. Taste for salt.
To serve, remove the herb bundle and ladle the soup into bowls. Pass olive oil and the pepper mill. Add both. Especially the olive oil. Makes a huge difference.