The Best Soup
I wish I managed to assemble blog posts with beautiful photos that illustrated the step-by-step process of each dish, but on second thought that’s not often how my cook-with-what-you-have nightly cooking unfolds so I might as well keep it realistic. And with a tired and hungry pre-schooler underfoot, photos often just don’t happen. So I’ll keep enjoying those beautiful blogs and offer you something else–a slightly more slap-dash account of meals I think are worthy of sharing and other stories.
Whether this is the best soup or not, it is my current favorite soup. It’s a slightly unusual combination of things and comes together into one of the most satisfying and complete meals, warming body and soul on these cool, stormy evenings.
It is basically stewed leeks with white beans, veggie broth, chard and pureed cilantro served over toasted bread you rub with garlic and then top with a poached egg (that you poach right in the soup). The bread and the egg take this dish to its exquisite level. However, I’ve enjoyed leftovers of this soup without bread or egg and just a generous drizzle of good olive oil, very much.
Two things that make this soup especially good are good beans and homemade veggie bouillon. The former I talked about in my last post and the latter is easy to make. As you all know I’m a bit evangelical about this veggie bouillon. I’m actually considering making it in quantity to sell so stay tuned. It has made my daily cooking easier, better, more economical and definitely more fun. You can certainly use any stock or broth or even water and beans (dry or canned) from the store to good effect. Just make it! It’s a wonderful antidote to the sweet richness of the other foods this time of year.
Finally, my Kitchen Fundamentals, Pantry Stocking 30-Minute Dinners series is filling up quickly so if you’re considering it for yourself or as a gift, let me know asap.
Happy Cooking and Eating and Celebrating!
Cilantro Bread Soup (Acorda)
–loosely adapted from Tea & Cookies
serves 4 (with plenty of leftovers) or 6
1 cup dried white beans (cannelini, great northern, Ayers Creek white beans of any kind, Rancho Gordo Marrow beans . . . ) or 1 14 oz. can of cannelini or other white beans
2 tbs olive oil
2-3 leeks (about 2 cups, chopped)
5 large cloves garlic
6 cups home-made veggie bouillon or veggie or chicken stock
2 cups packed cilantro
one large bunch chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
sliced crusty bread (4 slices)
salt and pepper, to taste
good olive oil for drizzling
Cook the beans in water with one clove of the garlic until soft. (See bean cooking instructions here) Drain and set aside. You could also use canned beans.
Trim and clean the leeks. Cut in half, lengthwise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices.
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Sauté the leeks in olive oil until limp. Add three cloves of garlic, minced. Continue sautéing until the garlic is soft but not brown about 2 minutes, lower heat as needed. Add four cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and continue to simmer for a minute or two. Add the chard to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Blend the cilantro with the reserved 2 cups of bouillon in a blender. Add the cilantro mixture and season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a rapid simmer. Crack eggs into soup, cover and let poach about 5 minutes until the yolks and whites are just set.
While eggs are cooking toast the bread slices and rub with remaining garlic cloves. You can rub one or both sides of the toast with garlic–depending on much you love garlic. Lay the bread in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup over. Top with poached egg. Drizzle with good olive oil and grind some pepper over the top.