When one feels that one has gone astray, that one's last soup has betrayed one, that one is in need of a Mojo Transfusion...
...thank goodness for Mollie Katzen. The simple, homey goodness of her recipes never disappoints.
I've had the Moosewood Cookbook since, oh, forever. But somehow, I completely overlooked this recipe until I stumbled upon this excellent blog post, "How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking," which breaks down the should-I-make-this? thought process cogently and quite readably. And the recipe it uses as an example is White Bean and Black Olive Soup, which I present here in the form in which I made it.
(It's vegan as made, and I honestly don't think it would be particularly Better With Bacon (tm). There are lots of flavors going on here already; the Kalamata olives, in particular, give an almost meaty effect that doesn't need duplicating elsewhere.)
White Bean and Black Olive Soup
Serves many. Maybe eight? Enough for leftovers for lunch, anyway.
3/4 cup dried small white ("navy" or "pea") beans (the original recipe called for a cup of dried beans, and I think it would have been better with a little less bean and a little more broth--hence, this adaptation)
Lots of water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small
1 medium celery stalk, outside peeled to remove fibrous strings, diced small
1 medium zucchini, diced small
1 small-to-medium red bell pepper, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram (the original recipe also called for dried basil, which feh)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
5 cups half-strength (or diluted 50/50 with water) vegetable or chicken broth
3 oz (half of a small can) tomato paste
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest of above-mentioned 1/2 lemon
In a soup pot, combine rinsed, picked-over beans (don't bother to soak them first) and plenty of water. Cover; bring just to a boil; reduce heat; simmer until tender, roughly 1 hour. (But start checking at 45 minutes, and anticipate that it may take up to 1-1/2 hours. You can do this well ahead of time.) When tender, drain, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Rinse and wipe out the soup pot; you want it to be dry before embarking on the next step.
Heat oil in said soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and vegetables are barely tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, marjoram, pepper flakes and salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes more.
Whisk together broth and tomato paste. Add this combination, plus beans, olives, lemon juice and several grindings of pepper, to pot. Bring just to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer delicately for about 15 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.
Meanwhile, toss together lemon zest and parsley. Refer to this as a gremolata.* Feel cultured.
Serve soup piping hot with gremolata (See? Classy as hell!) sprinkled over each bowl. Lovely with garlic bread (seethe a little minced garlic in butter; strain; brush over slices of bread; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; broil 'til just crisp) alongside.
Yeah, a Real True gremolata would have a little minced garlic in. I will report to the Department of Culinary Pretension immediately to have my soupblogger license revoked.