Tag Archives: Winter soups

Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup

3 bowls 2We’re not really a big game-playing family. The one and only time I ever played a board game with my husband was early on in our relationship. We were on the same team for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit. The category was sports and leisure and it was a baseball question, the only sport I know anything about. I got so excited that I knew the answer, I shouted it out. Unfortunately, it was the other team’s question. My husband declared a moratorium on game playing with me after that.

But, on a visit to see us in December, my youngest son started a game of tag, and it’s still going on. Sadly, he was playing tag with a wicked cold. He caught it first, passed it on to my husband, and now I am “it”, sneezing and coughing my way through January. Normally, when I’m sick, I lose my appetite, so I sort of got excited about being sick at the beginning of January. I figured this would be the perfect way to lose my December cookie weight. But this cold left me feeling ravenous. I couldn’t seem to eat enough to make me feel satisfied. I was craving carbs.one bowl 45°Soup seemed like the perfect remedy. Hot enough to soothe my sore throat and packed with lots of starchy things to make me feel full. This is my take on the classic Tuscan soup, Minestra di Faro Lucchese. (Farro soup in the style of Lucca). I used Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe as my starting point and adapted slightly from there. mise en place I added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste to the sauteed onions and celery, to really deepen the flavour of this soup. I also slipped in a big pinch of red pepper flakes. While spicy heat is not a typical addition to the classic recipe, my tastebuds were so dulled by my cold that I wanted the soup to really pack a punch of flavour. Plus, spicy food makes my nose run, so I figured that the soup would work to cleanse my sinuses. The final adaptation I made was the addition of a rind of Parmesan cheese to the simmering soup. I always save my rinds and keep them in the freezer in a zip-loc bag to add to soups and stews. serving soupThis soup does not fall under the “fast food” category. You need to soak the beans the night before. You could use canned beans, but I think that the texture would not be the same. The original recipe called for adding the farro and beans at the same time. I found that the beans needed at least 90 minutes of simmering to get tender, so I added the farro during the last 30 minutes of cooking, so that it would still retain some chew, the way I like it. I also waited and added the carrots at the end of the cooking time, rather than at the beginning with the celery and onions, so that they would not be too mushy.

Serve with lots of chopped Italian parsley and fresh basil for a hit of verdant freshness. Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese.

Click here to print recipe for Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup.

1 bowl on grey napkin


Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup

serving soupI have been transfering my liquid dish soap into beautiful glass bottles ever since I was inspired by this. That was in 1993, long before #hatemartha was trending. For the record, I am firmly in the #lovemartha camp. She is all about making everyday life aesthetically pleasing. She speaks my language.

While my husband doesn’t share this passion, he does tolerate it. However, I think I pushed him to the brink this week when I bought a charming new glass bottle for the liquid dish soap. soap bottleHe complained that the soap is very slow to come out. I turned the bottle upside down and counted. Yes, it takes a full 7 seconds for the soap to drip into the dirty dishes. I told him he was viewing it with the wrong lens. He simply needs exchange his impatience for anticipation. He just smiled and nodded, a trick that I taught him. My little secret for how to have a happy marriage. You’re welcome.

This is not a quick cook soup. It too, requires some patience. But while you are caramelizing the leeks, just anticipate how delicious it will taste. A traditional leek and potato soup (vichyssoise) is pureed smooth and served cold. The leeks are very briefly sautéed before the potatoes and stock are added. In this version, created by New York Times columnist Melissa Clark, the leeks are cooked until golden brown. If you haven’t already, you need to sign up for the New York Times Cooking Newsletter. Wonderful daily inspiration!

You can’t hurry caramelizing onions. They must be cooked over a low heat for a good 25-30 minutes. Turn up the heat and you will burn them, resulting in bitter onions.in white bowl 2 625 sqdicing leeksThe leeks are sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil. At first it seems like you have way too many leeks, but they eventually shrink down to a very small pile, of golden delicousness.raw leeks 1caramelized leeksFlavouring this soup is a supporting cast of fresh herbs. Sage, bay, thyme, parsley and celery leaves get tied up in a cheesecloth bundle to impart their goodness to the soup. I used a mixture of vegetable stock and water, but I think I would use all water next time, to really let the leek flavour shine through.bouquet garni Yukon golds are the potatoes of choice. I peeled, halved and thinly sliced them.slicing potatoesI very coarsely pureed the soup with a few bursts of power from my hand held immersion blender. I really like to leave the soup mostly chunky.soup pot

Click here to print recipe for Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup.in white bowl on wood and white marble server

Farro Soup and Sadness

serving soup 625 sqTurns out that contrary to what you might expect, listening to sad songs when you’re feeling blue can actually make you feel better. You would think that bopping along to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off would give you a lift, but actually, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide turns out to be more beneficial. 

A recent German study has revealed that listening to sad songs can improve a person’s emotional well being as well as make you feel at peace and nostalgic. Liila Taruffi, one of the authors of the study was interviewed on todayhealth.com. She summarized the findings, explaining that essentially there are four benefits to be reaped through listening to sad songs.

1. Sad songs allow you to feel sadness without any of its “real-life implications.” In other words, you can safely explore what it’s like to be a little blue without experiencing the intense grief of mourning a loved one, for example.

2. “Emotion regulation” was another important reward. Many respondents said that when they were in a bad mood, experiencing sadness through music made them feel better afterwards and provided an emotional boost. That may be because the songs help them to express and release their emotions.

3. The reward of “imagination” allowed listeners to feel as though they could express themselves as richly as the mournful music.

4. The “empathy” reward made the listener feel good by allowing him to share the sadness of another human being through the song.

Reading the results of this study, I couldn’t help come to the conclusion that there may very well be a culinary equivalent to sad songs.  Sure, playing Pharrell William’s Happy at an ear splitting volume while downing a pint of Salted Caramel Ice Cream will make me feel better in the short run, but tomorrow I will regret my decision to finish the whole tub. Seems like a better choice would have been a bowl of soup. Soup has the ability to soothe and comfort. It warms your soul.

This hearty Farro Soup is based on a traditional soup (Minestra di Faro Lucchese), which hails from the walled town of Lucca, in Tuscany. My version of it is slightly adapted from Mario Batali’s interpretation.a squeeze of tomato psteadding farroI usually buy large wedges of Parmesan cheese for grating. When the cheese is done, and all that’s left is the rind, I toss it into a ziploc bag in the freezer. I toss the frozen rinds into a pot of soup. The umami properties of Parmesan cheese add a real depth of flavour to the broth.

Parmesan rind for flavour

A good cry while listening to Carly Simon’s “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain“, and a big bowl of this soup may just get you through your latest round of heartbreak or grief. Not quite the same as a hug from your mom, but close.bowl of soup with toasr

Click here to print recipe for Farro Soup.