The stock I used for this soup had a fortifying tomato base, a result of frying a few tablespoons of tomato paste in the stockpot before adding the rest of the vegetables (which I almost always do because, because it’s good). I also added a dried, very hot pepper that would have stolen the show had I not removed it halfway through the simmering.
I cannot stress enough how much of an improvement homemade stock is. Not just in this recipe, but in life. A few months ago I wrote up a few recipes and guidelines here.
Dried beans are much better than canned. You lose the slime and the slightly fishy taste. To prepare dried beans for cooking, you need to rinse and pick through them for any stones or discolored beans, put them in a bowl and cover them with 2 inches of water, and let them soak in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight. After drained, they are ready for use.
Some bright green herb might complement this recipe—cilantro or parsley, or even watercress or spinach whizzed up with the beans. Also, a few gratings of lemon zest or drops of lemon juice might be good.
Spicy White Bean Soup with Broccoli
Serves 2 really hungry people, or 4 not-so-hungry people
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot or two small, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 T tomato paste
1/4 to 1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup white navy beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
12 cups vegetable stock
1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets, and the stem peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf. “Sweat” the vegetables—cook them until they are soft but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes, stirring to coat, and cook for about a minute. Then add the wine, and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Then add the beans and the stock and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down, bringing the soup to a simmer, and cover the pot, cooking until the beans are tender; it may take anywhere from one to two hours, so taste as you go. Once they are ready, carefully puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the broccoli. When the broccoli is fork tender, turn of the heat, adjust the seasonings, and serve.