Tuesday, August 10, 2010

White Bean Bisque with Fresh Herbs

White beans are a versatile staple which require little effort to prepare and which can be transformed into an endless variety of quick delicious meals. Cooking legumes is easy! Use dried beans which have not been stored in your pantry for too long; older beans may have less flavor and take longer to cook. Pick over the beans and soak in fresh water for 6- 8 hours or overnight; drain soaking water before cooking. Cook beans in a heavy soup pot; a flame tamer will distribute heat evenly and prevent burning.

This luxurious jade green soup is made in two simple steps. In the first, the beans are cooked; in the second the bisque is processed in a blender, heated briefly and served. The recipe calls for fresh herbs such as basil, Italian parsley, oregano or cilantro; a combination of two or three herbs works well but even one will suffice. (You can also use fresh spinach or arugula leaves in the same manner.) The herbs are pureed with the cooked beans, resulting in an aromatic bisque which may be enjoyed hot or chilled.

White Beans: Basic cooking method

2 cups cannellini or other white beans, soaked and drained
5- 6 cups fresh water
3 cloves garlic, whole
1 large bay leaf
2 ribs celery, whole
2 medium carrots, whole
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, whole

Place the soaked and drained beans in a soup pot with fresh water. Bring to a simmer over a medium flame, add remaining ingredients and cover. Allow beans to simmer gently until tender which will take 30- 45 minutes; add more water if necessary while cooking. When beans are done, remove vegetables from pot and set them aside to use later as you wish. Store beans and cooking broth in clean glass jars in the fridge for up to several days.

White Bean Bisque with Fresh Herbs

2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1+1/2 cups plain soy milk (approx)
1/2 cup broth from cooking beans (approx)
2 teaspoons white miso paste
(or 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste)
1 handful fresh basil, Italian parsley and oregano leaves
1 fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped

Place beans, soy milk and miso in blender and process until smooth, then blend in herbs and jalapeno. Add more liquid if needed; the bisque should not be too thin but the consistency is up to you. Extra herbs may be used for a more intense flavor.

Gently heat bisque until just warmed through; over heating will alter the delicate flavor and color of the herbs. Serve immediately in warm bowls; garnish with a few fresh oregano leaves.