White Bean and Broccoli Stem Soup

 

As we get pounded by blizzard after blizzard, I’ll keep making soups and stews–there’s just nothing I’d rather eat after shoveling snow for two hours!

This soup makes use of a vastly underutilized vegetable–or I should say an underutilized part of a vegetable–the stem of the broccoli.  Most people discard the stems and cook only the florets.  Although you may already know that the stems can be eaten once they’re peeled, most people don’t go through the extra step of actually doing it.  Not only can the stems be eaten, but they’re truly the most delicate part of the plant.  I usually boil them and saute them alongside the florets, but in this case, I’m using the stems in my soup all by themselves.

Because I still have some luganiga sausage in the freezer, I’m going to add it to my soup as well.  Sausage and white beans are a wonderful combination, but you can omit the sausage and make the soup meatless.

Although I’m using chicken broth as the base for my soup, you can just as easily use vegetable broth or the cooking liquid from a batch of boiled kale. 

Tomato is always a big question when making a soup or a stew.  Tomato adds its own strong flavor to most sauces or stews, so if I were using a vegetable broth as the base of the soup, I might add some tomato–just a small amount (like a half-cup of chopped tomato). 

Or if I were using plain water as the base for the soup, I might add a lot of tomato and and let the tomato be the base of the soup.  But in my soup tonight, I’m using homemade chicken broth as the base, therefore I don’t want to eclipse the delicate flavor of the broth with tomato. 

The other ingredients are pretty flexible–I like a bit of carrots for sweetness; a bit of onion for sweetness and roundness of flavor, and a bit of fresh chopped parsley at the end to brighten the flavors. 

I’ll also put a touch of that rosemary from Beppi’s garden–a sprig or two (removed before serving) will impart that wonderful woodsy flavor to the beans. 

Whether to add pasta or not is also a big decision–usually I make the soup without pasta and if I have some leftover, I’ll make it the next day with pasta.  But tonight I couldn’t resist adding some orrechiette and cooking them right in the broth.

White Bean and Broccoli Stem Soup

 

Serves 4

1/2 lb dried white beans, soaked and boiled until tender (or  2 15-oz. cans  of beans with half their liquid)

4 links of cooked sausage, cut into small disks

1 small onion, quartered, then diced into 1/2″ pieces

3 carrots, cut into half-moon slices about 1/2″ thick

1 small potato, cut into 1/2″ dice

2 cups peeled chopped broccoli stems, boiled until soft

1 1/2 qts chicken broth

2 sprigs rosemary

2 dried bay leaves (if using fresh, only use 1)

1 1/3  cup orrechiette

2 tbls chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

grated pecorino romano for sprinkling

Place potates, onion, carrot, rosemary and bay leaves and chicken broth in a saucepot or dutch oven.  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Add beans, sausage and broccoli stems and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add pasta (if using) and cook for 10 – 12 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley, grated pecorino romano, and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil.

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