I believe I’ve mentioned one or two recipes ago how much I like legumes. In my opinion, pasta, rice, soup and salads are always improved by their addition. When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough of B&M baked beans. Besides enjoying the texture of the beans, the sugar and molasses were right up my sweet tooth’s alley.
Back in those days, we used to come home from school for lunch. I was a very fussy eater as a kid. I would eat peanut butter but hated (to this day) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My mother was at her wit’s end as to what to feed me. Somehow I cajoled her into making me baked beans for my lunch, and I would happily eat a bowl of it. Thus, began my lifelong love affair with legumes—and, obviously, alliteration!
A few years ago, I had the most delicious, creamy Italian white bean soup at a local restaurant which sadly went out of business. I was determined to recreate it; and, after a couple of tries, I came up with a version that I like just as much. I used a common technique to make the soup creamy without adding any milk or cream since I am lactose intolerant. On occasion, I will take a Lactaid tablet, but I prefer to avoid dairy when I can.
One of the kitchen tools I can’t live without is an immersion blender, also referred to as a “stick” blender. This handy tool makes life a whole lot easier when you want to purée a soup to make it creamy. Of course, you can always use a food blender—but, in most cases, you will have to blend the soup in batches, making more work for yourself. You always have to be careful when using a blender to purée hot liquids because unless you vent the hot liquid it is quite apt to blow the lid off spraying hot liquid everywhere. In addition, you will now have the blender added to the things you need to wash. Using an immersion blender eliminates the extra steps and extra clean-up. All you have to do is immerse the blender in the pot of soup and whiz away until you get the creaminess you desire.
So, this is a wonderfully creamy soup with great mouth feel but not a drop of milk or cream in it. I put a little bit of fresh lemon juice in at the end which brightens up the flavor of the spinach and the soup in general. I can’t remember if Roger or I came up with the name for the soup, but it describes it perfectly, don’t you think?
- Olive oil – enough to cover bottom of pan
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 15-oz. cans cannellini, drained and rinsed
- 2 14-oz. cans chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 tsp. ground white or black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. dried marjoram
- 1/2 package (or more to your preference) fresh spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced OR 1/2 (10-oz.) package of chopped frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 tbl. fresh lemon juice
- Garlic croutons for garnish, optional
On a medium setting, heat enough olive oil in a large saucepan to cover the bottom. Sauté the onion and celery in the olive oil for approximately 10 minutes, or until tender, adding additional olive oil if necessary to prevent vegetables from sticking. Add garlic, and cook for another 30 to 60 seconds, stirring continually. Stir in cannellini, chicken broth, pepper, marjoram and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
With slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from the soup and set aside.
Using an immersion blender, blend remaining soup in the pot until smooth.
Once blended, stir in reserved bean/vegetable mixture.
Alternatively, if you do not have an immersion blender, use a food blender to purée the soup in batches being careful to vent the soup so the lid won’t pop off and spew hot liquid on you and perhaps the kitchen ceiling! (Personally, I’d be running out to the store about now to buy an immersion blender after reading something like that!) If you use a food blender, you will need to put the puréed soup in a holding bowl until all of the soup is blended before you put it all back in the pan along with the reserved vegetable mixture.
After you have added the reserved vegetables back to the pot, bring the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the soup is back to a boil, stir in spinach and cook 1 minute or until spinach is wilted. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat. Serve with freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.
To keep this gluten free, use organic chicken broth and leave out the croutons.
Source: A frantastic original