Last Friday’s supper is a good example of my style of cooking. I’ll warn you now that I’m going to describe what I did and there will be no “recipe” at the end to follow. While my husband was cooking dinner on Thursday I was poking around in the kitchen to see what was in the pantry (what I wouldn’t give for a real pantry!) and I found at the back of the top shelf a cocktail onion jar filled with some small dried white beans, variety unknown. I thought, that’s not a lot of beans but it might be more than it looks and anyway I can do something with it. Perhaps I eat them for lunch or make a dip? So I put the beans in some water to soak overnight.
I work from home so at lunch when I went to see what I could scrounge up I saw the beans on the counter and thought, oh yeah, the beans; I should cook those now. While I was getting the beans together I got my lunch ready. I cut a small onion in half and threw one half in the pot with the beans and sliced the other to sauté for my lunch. I saw that the celery was starting to look a little weary so I used the best looking stalks to sauté and the smaller ones with leafs I threw in the pot with the beans. To the beans I also added a bay leaf. Then I put the lid on the pot and made lunch, which was a celery, onion, and garlic sauté that I added cooked pearl barley to (pulled from the freezer 2 days before) a good squeeze of lemon, then I topped it with a little tahini sauce leftover from last night’s meal.
Since my husband made the lion’s share of our shared meals this week I thought I should make dinner tonight. I was going to make this red lentil soup but then decided that since there seemed to be enough beans to make a soup and they’re sitting there all ready and everything that I’ll do that instead. I asked hubby if he was in the mood for bean soup. He said sure and told me that there’s a Robuchon recipe in The Paris Cookbook. I looked it up and my eyes started to glaze over so I impatiently snapped the book closed while saying: “nah, I’m just gonna wing it.”
So I started, like you do, with onion and garlic in the bottom of the pot in a good glug of olive oil. I decided to throw in a couple sprigs of thyme and a few of parsley. This is where the Robuchon recipe guided me. He cooked the beans with a bouquet garni. Though my beans were cooked and could have made a soup right then and there I decided to let everything simmer for a bit so that the herbs could actually do some good and all the flavours could come together. So I picked out the herbs from the onions and tied them with some kitchen twine so that they could be fished out of the liquid before being puréed. I had drained the beans but kept their cooking water and used that for broth. I’d say I just covered the ingredients with the liquid and added a pinch of salt and let it simmer.
I should mention here that I’m also on a moderate cleansing diet at the moment, which means that flavour cheats like Parmesan or bacon are out. So now I’m thinking, what am I going to do to make this thing interesting? Hubby had mentioned something about truffle oil (the Robuchon version has truffle) and we have some languishing in the fridge so I thought, I’ll finish with that but still - boring. I knew I wanted the garlic to be pronounced and the parsley was already out so I minced a clove with a fistful of parsley to use as garnish. Then I remembered that I saw a lonely aged leak in the crisper that I could put to work. I cleaned him up and finely sliced him and threw him in a smallish cast iron pan to get to work caramelizing and crisping up at bit.
So while the leek was caramelizing I tidied the kitchen table so that we could eat at it and took down the food mill. I will use more labour intensive devices when the result is so much superior and my immersion blender really is inferior when it comes to making a creamy puree. I started to put the soup through the mill after about 30 minutes of simmering with the wrong disc (holes too small!) so I had to start over with the next size up. That was a bit messy but I remained undaunted because I just thought, I’ll know for next time - if I haven’t forgotten again by then. In the end I put the soup through the mill twice to get the texture I wanted. Then, I decided that I’d add a ladle more of bean broth to thin it out a tad. Next, I put the soup on the burner to heat it again as it cools down a bit with the pureeing.
I tasted the soup and adjusted the seasoning with grey sea salt and white pepper and a tiny splash of white vinegar until I thought it was the right flavour to play around with all those garnishes I had planned. I ladled out the soup and sprinkled the minced parsley and garlic liberally over the top. I could have stopped there save a drizzle of olive oil; the parsley not only brightens up the dish (pureed white beans are not exciting to look at) but also it does brighten the flavours. Next, I made a little tangled nest of the sweet caramelized leeks in the centre. Then I drizzled a very small amount of black truffle oil. To me, though, the white beans and truffles make it all very earthy and I wanted something to push it in the herbal direction and on my table was a tiny bottle of fruity Spanish olive oil (the kind on the ice cream in this post) and that was the stuff. For my second helping I skipped the truffle oil and went straight for the olive oil.
While all this was going on I saw that there were chestnuts that had better been used up sooner rather than later so I cut a little x on their bottoms and put them in the oven to roast and they were ready in time to have a handful for desert. They were very sweet – the sweetest chestnuts I’ve ever tasted. Problem is, now I’ve got all these roasted chestnuts to figure out what to do with…but that’s a problem I’m eager to solve!