Friday, February 29, 2008

New Favorite Soup

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. I do however believe in setting intentions, and embracing new ideas or trying to change less than fabulous quirks. For me, they have to be things I can, and want, to sustain for the rest of my life. Like I could never say "I want to be nicer to people" because that is so vague and anyone could say it. I could do "I'm going to be more open to people" and then identify situations where I don't always do that and can change that behavior.

One of this year's intentions is to eat more beans because they are so good for us, and I'm not all that great about eating all my whole grains and fiber. Simple, but true:) Luckily, my mom gave me a great cookbook first Christmas, the Food Network's Making It Easy. Last Sunday I made my new favorite soup, which I have been eating for lunch or dinner all week. Its soooooooooo, sooooooo good. I can tell already it's going to be a new staple in my entertaining cookbook. There's no meat in it, so Anthony had sun dried tomato chicken sausage on the side. Here's the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup
1 cup dried multibean mix or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, optional
3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put beans, water, tomatoes and their juices, garlic, celery, carrots, onion, barley, bay leaf, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, herb blend, pepper, and porcini mushrooms (if using) in a slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

Stir in the spinach, cheese, and vinegar, cover, and let the soup cook until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with olive oil. The olive oil interacts with the spinach and brings out all the flavor.

I omitted the mushrooms (and they will never be a New Year's resolution) and I think next time, I'm going to cut down on the amount of kosher salt because the Parmesan cheese is pretty salty.

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