Bean Ragout a la Bon Appitit, Barbara, Lidia and me.
I was inspired by White Bean Ragout with Toast I read about in Bon Appetit on the drive home from our last scout trip to Reno. That recipe is all about building a flavor base for what is essentially a white bean and tomato bread salad made soup by adding liquid. The soffritto, an Italian blend of chopped cooked aromatics is that flavor base. That’s fine, but the recipe makes about 3 cups of soffritto and only uses 1/2 cup… refrigerate or freeze the balance for use in many strange and wonderful ways. Well… I’m trying to EMPTY the freezer.
I do have a container of Lidia’s Soup Base in the freezer. (Lidia Bastianich: if you don’t know her, you are missing out.) I’m not sure what’s in it or why I made it in the first place, but I’ll bet it’ll be good with white beans. So I got that out to thaw and I’m on my way to some kind of bean soup or stew. I checked my recipe files and glommed onto Barbara Kafka’s Bean and Kale Soup.
So I had a plan, and all I needed was the Kale. I’ll start with Barbara’s Bean and Kale Soup but substitute Lidia’s Soup Base for the broth and borrow the croutons from the Bon Appitit recipe.
That was delicious.
Lidia’s Soup Base turned out to be a bit tomatoey and garlicy and made it really great with the beans and greens. I used farfalle pasta — which I don’t much like — but we had a bunch of it in the cupboard, so using it up is a good thing.
Here’s what I did:
Bean & Kale Ragout with Croutons
Adapted from Bean & Kale Soup, from Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka
Altered and rewritten by Marcus, Judith Jones style.
Makes about 5 cups; 4 first-course servings.
Wash and trim 1 bunch kale and in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, cook the kale with 1?2 cup (125 ml) water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt until tender. Drain and coarsely chop the kale, reserving any liquid that remains.
Rub some slices rustic bread with garlic, drizzle with olive oil and bake on a baking sheet at 400°F for about 5 minutes until just right. (I keep slices of bread in the freezer for this purpose, and bake in the countertop convection oven.)
Very finely chop 2 flat anchovy fillets together with the 1?4 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves or dried. Reserve.
Put on enough water for 1/2 cup shell pasta and cook for 5 or 6 minutes (half the time on the package). Reserve in its water if necessary.
Smash and peel 2 garlic cloves and in a medium saucepan, stir together 1?3 cup (80 ml) olive oil and the garlic over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is pale gold, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off heat and stir in the anchovies and rosemary for 1 minute. [A furious sizzle ensues when you throw the anchovies into the very hot oil.]
Discard the garlic. Put the pan back on heat and stir in the kale and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to thoroughly coat it with the oil. Stir in 1 cup drained, cooked small white beans (or rinsed canned beans). Cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in the reserved kale cooking liquid and 3 cups broth (here’s where I used Lidia’s Soup Base). Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and stir in 1?2 cup (60 g) of your partially cooked small shell macaroni. Simmer for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Place 3 or 4 croutons in each serving bowl, top with the beans greens and broth.
Pass Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper at the table.
I noodled around in my recipe database and actually found a recipe I might have used for Lidia’s Soup Base — a part of larger cook-most-of-the-day Hearty Minestra Base with Cranberry Beans, Potatoes, and Pork
It is not so different from the Soffritto of the Bon Appitit recipe. (Ironically, I rejected that recipe because I didn’t want to make the soffritto, only to discover I had something similar in my own freezer.) So I altered Bon Appitit to make it tomatoey, and suggest that. I’m not sure I’m right and I haven’t tested this, but it seems a lot like Lidia’s other soffritto recipes. When I get moved, I promise to test it.
Faux Lidia Soup Base
Garlic — finely grate 3 garlic cloves.
Chop 3 medium onions and 1 red bell pepper — Pulse in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed. Mix well in a bowl.
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion mixture (it may splatter) and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are completely softened, about 30 minutes. Make a hot spot in the middle of your skillet; add the finely grated garlic and 2 teaspoons tomato paste and cook, stirring that into the onion mixture until tomato paste begins to turn deep red, about 3 minutes. Add a large can of San Marzano tomatoes with their juices. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or a wooden spoon and cook for at least 30 minutes until all the flavors are blended and the sauce is smooth.
Bon Appitit, as they say.
Yum, as I say.