White Bean and Rosemary Soup with Parmesan and Truffle

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The weather has been horrid in Seattle lately. Record rains and dipping temperature have already ushered in the first snow of the season in the local mountains. Driving by the local farms dotted with specks of perfect orange pumpkins, cold wet rain, and snow-capped mountains off in the distance immediately sends me into the kitchen to make soups. Today I went for a old standby I've gotten away from for a while. And like an old friend, it was lovely reconnecting...

I'm obsessed with this combination: white beans, rosemary, parmesan cheese, truffles. I make a variation of this combo as a dip, a crostini, a salad, and as a soup. The simplicity of the ingredients is what makes this recipe (and the other versions) so successful. Truly, it is imperative you select only the best -- good quality beans, fresh rosemary, imported parmesan cheese (I'm talking about the kind that breaks off so easily when you try to grate it), and truffles. If you don't have real truffles no problem; use the truffle oil (I confess, I do!).

I love everything about this soup. The texture is silky, the color palate is so soothing, the hints of rosemary and truffle add an irresistible earthiness to the hearty white beans. I like adding a small drizzle of excellent olive oil right before serving for a luxurious and fragrant finish. This recipe comes from humble beginnings -- prepares very easily with readily available ingredients -- but finishes and serves so elegantly. It's hearty without being heavy, effortlessly elegant, and at the end of the day does what we want from every soup: comforts and keeps you warm.

You can certainly make the soup in advance. In fact, I recommend it. As the soup sits, the flavors develop even more. This soup is fantastic the next day, making it a perfect appetizer or main course to serve for a dinner party or lunch that can be prepare well ahead of time. It reheats beautifully on a gentle heat. To serve I'll sometimes float a crouton on top, or just serve with warmed crusty French bread.  It's heaven.

This recipe makes 4 appetizer portions. You can easily expand it to suite a larger crowd. Enjoy it and stay warm out there!

White Bean and Rosemary Soup with Parmesan and Truffle
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped small
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 (12 oz) can white beans (aka cannellini)
4 cups chicken broth (recommend: Swanson's)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
truffle oil
grated parmesan cheese

Special equipment: blender, food processor, handheld immersion blender to puree the soup

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook onions until well softened and just beginning to caramelize, on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary and cook an additional minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the beans (together with the bean juices in the can) and mix to combine. Stir in the broth. Bring soup to a boil, then cover with lid and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, for flavors to develop.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to taste.

Remove the bay leaf and if using an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot. If using a blender or food processor, wait until the soup cools down to room temperature, then puree the soup in batches. (If you puree the soup piping hot in a blender or processor be advised you'll have to do it in very small batches. Remember that heat has volume, so if you're not careful and put too much hot soup in, you can blow the top off and make a huge hot mess all over yourself and kitchen. This is why it's best to just let it cool down and then work with it!)

You want a nice smooth consistency. Once everything is pureed and you've adjusted with seasonings, add a very small drop of the truffle oil -- about 1/4 tsp's worth -- but you can add less if you find the taste too strong. I prefer to add the truffle oil while the soup is hot; the temperature helps to really bring out the truffle flavor instantly. Mix the truffle right into the soup. You want a balance here -- enough to taste it but not so much as it overpowers.

If serving immediately, ladle soup out into portions and top with a good sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add a small drizzle of good olive oil right on top if you like. Serve hot.

Make Ahead Tip:
You can make this soup a full day in advance. Do everything including the pureeing up until the point of adding the truffle. Bring the soup to a boil, then once hot, add the truffle and serve as suggested.

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