As you know from my previous post, it rained the entire weekend our house guests (my husband’s brother and his wife) were visiting. There’s nothing better for lunch on a rainy day than a good bowl of soup followed by a salad and perhaps a nap. Since our guests had an appointment to look at a house that’s for sale in the afternoon, we decided to save the nap for later and visit a local winery a few minutes away from the property they’re seeing with the realtor.
I believe I’ve found one of the secrets to making a really good soup. It’s how you sauté the vegetables. My mother used to throw the vegetables in without browning them first. While there’s nothing wrong with this and it does save a bit of time, if you brown the vegetables first your soup will have a much richer flavor. The second secret is to add the herbs and a little bit of tomato paste to the vegetables at the end of the browning stage. Here’s what I do. I start the vegetables on high heat, then quickly switch to low, season with salt and pepper, and cook them slowly until they are nice and brown taking care that they not burn. Then I add the herbs I’m using (thyme and fresh rosemary are my favorites) and a little tomato paste and cook the vegetables for a few more minutes until the tomato paste is blended in and begins to brown.
I adapted this bean soup from Pam Anderson’s Perfect Recipes for Having People Over. The mushrooms were my idea and I like using both the cremini and white button ones. You could easily leave out the prosciutto and sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken used here and have a meal perfectly suited for a vegetarian guest.
White Beans & Sausage Soup
Adapted from Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by Pam Anderson
¾ pound of mild Italian sausage (or up to 1 ½ pounds as in the original recipe)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, peeled & cut into medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms
8 ounces sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 quart chicken broth
3 16-ounce cans cannelloni or great northern white beans
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Remove sausage from its casings, crumble the meat (discard casings) and sauté in a ten inch non-stick skillet in a tiny bit of olive oil until nicely browned and fully cooked. Set sausage aside and wipe out the skillet.
Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the prosciutto, onions, carrots and celery over high heat about three or four minutes until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low and continue to sauté until they are nicely browned, about ten minutes. Add the thyme, rosemary and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove the vegetables and set aside with the sausage.
Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until nicely browned, seasoning with salt and pepper about half way through. Remove the mushrooms and set aside with the sausage and vegetables.
Smash the beans from one can with a fork, then add it and the remaining whole beans with their liquid to a soup pot along with the broth, vegetables, mushrooms and sausage. Cover, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, partially covered, to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes for flavors to develop. Return soup to a simmer and serve. Can be made ahead and frozen. Before serving, sprinkle each person’s bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes eight servings.
Spinach salad with oranges and blue cheese
Make lemony vinaigrette by mixing together one part fresh lemon juice to three parts extra virgin olive oil and a dash of Tabasco in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Toss fresh baby spinach with the vinaigrette and top with fresh orange segments and blue cheese crumbles. Avoid buying pre-crumbled cheese; in my opinion it is dry and crumbling your own is well worth the effort.
This is the property they saw. One is of the pond in the summer and the other is of the barn after a fresh snowfall in the winter. As you can see the grounds were beautiful, but the house was on two levels and all of the rooms were extremely tiny. My husband and I have remodeled a dozen or so houses over the years and this one would be a major challenge.
Join us next time as we visit a local winery, Crane Creek Vineyards
in nearby Young Harris, Georgia, and celebrate Pink Saturday.