Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fava Bean & Greens Soup with Ciabatta Croutons

In the summertime, I tend to flit about like the ants in the proverb of the ants and the grasshopper, making sure that I have enough "put up" for winter. These past few weeks I've been canning jam (strawberry, triple berry, banana-rum, and today, sour cherry.) Tomorrow, I'll be making mulberry jelly, which is a new recipe, since I came across a glut of mulberries yesterday at the cherry picking farm.

This soup is easily created from a few pantry items, some spring greens, and some mushrooms. The ciabatta croutons add a nice crunch to the soup, should you feel you need a bit more substance. Dried fava beans can be found in larger grocery stores with the dry beans, or by mail order. Feel free to substitute cannellini beans or white kidney beans, just don't worry about peeling them first.

Fava Bean & Greens Soup

1 lb dry fava beans, picked through and rinsed, soaked overnight, and peeled
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1/4 cup finely minced carrot
1/4 cup finely minced celery
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary, divided
2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage, divided
1 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup diced shiitake mushroom
32 oz vegetable or chicken stock
32 oz water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens,or turnip greens, main stem removed
Garnish: Ciabatta croutons, recipe follows

In a 6-qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until onion is translucent; about 5 minutes. Add garlic and 1 Tbsp each of the rosemary and sage, and 1 tsp each of the salt and pepper. Saute until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms and turn heat to medium-high. Saute the mixture until the mushrooms start to brown; about 5 minutes. Add stock, water, and beans to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until beans are tender and begin to fall apart. Turn off heat and allow soup to cool to room temperature.

Using a blender, puree the soup until a smooth consistency is achieved. Return soup to pot and bring to just boiing. Add greens, remaining rosemary and sage, and stir to combine. Cook until greens are tender; about 5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: About four 2 1/2 cup servings

Ciabatta Croutons

Ciabatta bread, about three slices, each one-inch thick
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 400*F. Rub the slices of bread with the garlic. Slice the bread into one inch cubes to yield 2 cups or so. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and cheese, tossing to coat. Bake cubes for 15 minutes, or until well toasted. Yield: Four 1/2 cup servings

Agave Glazed Shrimp

This is my go-to recipe when I have about 10 minutes to whip something together. It is the ultimate quick & dirty dinner. If you cannot find agave nectar (which hides around the sugar section natural food department around these parts), you can substitute Lyle's Golden Syrup. This is really great on top of some buttery cheddar grits mixed in with some fresh corn scraped off of the cob.

1 lb. raw jumbo (21-26) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. canola oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. sliced green onion/scallion, light green parts only

Sprinkle the shrimp with cayenne, salt, and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the oil on high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add shrimp and cook about 1 minute on each side, until shrimp are opaque. Drizzle the agave nectar over the shrimp and toss the shrimp until it is evenly coated. Remove from heat and sprinkle with scallion. Serve immediately.