I frequently tell participants in my cooking classes they should challenge themselves every now and then to cook with what they have on hand. Allow yourself to create something without using a cook book or shopping list. Most people have been cooking for themselves, one way or the other, their whole adult life. For some it’s intuitive, and others challenging, but in the end the one thing that binds us all is the need to eat. Using a little of this, and a little of that, to make something tasty, is all it takes.
I will be honest, life in my house is a little like the cobblers family without shoes. I cook for a lot of people on the average of 4-5 days a week. When I get home the very last thing I want to do is make a huge meal. Except for maybe Sunday. Frequently there isn’t much in the fridge either. (There are never ancient jars or continuers of forgotten leftovers in our fridge!) What I do always have on hand in my basement fridge are vegetables. Mainly from our CSA or the farmers market.
This week I not only found myself with a nasty head cold, but a relatively empty kitchen fridge. I had very little energy or interest in going out, so I decided to forage in the basement pantry for something to make. Soup seemed to be the ideal remedy. I found a big butternut squash, but the idea of peeling, roasting and then making a soup did not seem appealing.
What I did find was a nice bunch of broccoli raab, onions and garlic. A perfect start for the base of my soup.
Soups are something I make a lot. Throughout the year they can be cold or hot. They are a perfect grab-and-go for lunch or that peckish time round 4:00 pm. That is probably the one dish generally present in the kitchen fridge – though sadly not at that moment. One thing I always, always, have are canned beans. Another tip I give in my cooking classes. Nothing beats a freshly made pot of beans, but in a pinch, the can is the man! It’s a great way to boost a little protein in any of your dishes. Rounding out my ingredients are oregano from my herb box on the porch and Better Than Bouillon for the stock.
A little about Better Than Bouillon: this is another great product to have on hand, in a pinch. I’ve mentioned this before: it’s a secret boost for my Chicken Noodle Soup. If you are ever without a good vegetable or chicken stock this is great to use.
All together this was made in well under thirty minutes. The pot was large with eight, maybe ten servings. I filled my two-quart container after promptly eating two bowls. The liquid ratio is up to you. I used eight cups of water, but you could use a little less, or more, depending on how you like your soup. I tend to be on the less is more side of liquid when it comes to this kind of soup.
My last suggestion is that any leafy green will work. I usually make this with escarole, but the raab worked beautifully, as I’m sure kale would as well. Remember, use what you have and make it delicious!
Broccoli Raab and Cannellini Bean Soup
Makes a little over 2 quarts
1 medium red onion, 1/4″ dice
2-4 garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
Red chili flakes
1 bunch of broccoli raab, escarole or kale
Low sodium Better Than Bouillon Chicken Stock
2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed very well and drained
1 -2 tablespoons of loosely packed, roughly chopped, oregano
- Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of red chili flake in a small soup pot.
- If using the raab rinse and trim off the bottom. Divide the bunch and starting at the bottom slice the stalk 1/4″ until you reach the greens. Throw the stalk ends in with the onion. Continue slicing the leaves and momentarily set aside. Do the same if using escarole. If using kale strip off the stems and discard. (No amount of cooking will make kale stems edible.) Slice the leaves thinly. Cook the onions and stems about 5 minutes.
- Once the stems soften add in the leaves, a good drizzle of oil and another good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to wilt the leaves and cook about 3 minutes.
- Add 8 cups of warm water and raise the heat slightly. Add 5-6 tablespoons of Better than Bouillon, or to taste. If you have chicken stock on hand use that and bump up the flavor a little with the bouillon.
- Once the liquid begins to simmer add the beans and oregano and stir. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed.