If you are just learning to cook, making a nice hearty pot of soup is a great way to develop confidence in the kitchen and end up with a fantastic dinner as well! Soups are very forgiving. If you don’t have the exact ingredient on hand, you can often make a substitution or two, and it doesn’t matter if your chopping is uneven.
Fresh Thyme, Rosemary and Basil
From your food cupboard (or the grocery store) you will need three kinds of beans, vegetable or chicken broth, olive oil, and canned diced tomatoes. Either plain or seasoned diced tomatoes will be fine.
(Broth is the strained liquid left from cooking vegetables, meat, or fish in water. It is often used as a synonym for bullion. Stock is basically the same thing but cooked more slowly and has a more intense flavor than broth. Bullion cubes or granules are compressed stock that needs to be dissolved before using.)
As always, get all your ingredients prepared and measured before you turn on the stove!
Preparing the Ingredients:
Carrots – Dice (or chop into small pieces) two carrots, which will yield about 1 cup. It is easier to dice a carrot if you cut the carrot so that it has a flat surface. The picture below shows the stages (left to right) I use to turn a whole carrot into a diced carrot.
Celery – Dice two stalks of celery. As with the carrot, first cutting the celery into strips will make dicing the celery easier.
Onion – 1 large onion will yield approximately 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of diced onions. For a quick review on how to dice and onion, click here. To make dicing easier, be sure to leave the root end intact.
Garlic – To make two teaspoons of crushed garlic, you will need approximately 2-3 garlic cloves.
Rosemary, thyme and basil leaves need to be removed form their stems and finely chopped. (The pictures below show, from left to right, the stages of preparing the herbs from the way you get them in the store to the way you use them in the recipe.)
Here’s the rosemary:
Now, the thyme.
From left to right below, you can see the fresh thyme, the stems with the leaves removed, the whole leaves and the chopped leaves. (Throw the stems away!)
Finally, the basil. Jon, from the comment section, points out a quick tip for cutting the basil into ribbons. After you have washed the leaves put a pile one on top of another and then roll them up from tip to toe until you have a fat cigar of basil. It’s then easy to slice across the roll getting you nice slice. This is called a “chiffonade”. Again, just throw the stems away.
After you have rinsed and drained all the beans in a colander, all the ingredients will be prepared.
Cooking the Soup
Using a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers (about 1 minute.)
Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook these vegetables for about 3-to-4 minutes.
Add the can of diced tomatoes. (The tomatoes I used were in a puree but just a can of plain diced tomatoes works fine as well.)
Add the beans…
…and the broth…
…and the herbs.
Give everything a stir…
…and cover the pot.
Bring everything to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer. Cook the soup on “simmer” (a very low temperature) for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the baby spinach to the top of the soup. (Even “Pre-washed” spinach should get washed before using. You can wash the baby spinach leaves the same way you wash lettuce.)
It will take about one minute for the baby spinach to wilt (go all limp).
This Tuscan Bean Soup is ready to serve!
The flavors in this soup really develop in time. You can make this the day before serving it and it will taste even better by the next day! If you are going to be making the soup in advance, add the baby spinach just before you serve it so that it retains that nice bright green color.
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