I was given Mark Bittman’s new How to Cook Everything Fast cookbook for Christmas. I enjoy reading Bittman and always learn from him. This new book has some good tips for multi-tasking to streamline prep times which should just be common sense. Sometimes you have to be told so you can get it! Little things, such as get your chopped onion sweating and then work on dicing the carrots and celery for a mirepoix, do speed things up.
He also suggests deconstructing a recipe to simplify preparation and still come up with the same great flavors. One of his recipes is for a tomato, bread and white bean soup that reminded me a a fresh tomato and bread mush I learned to make last summer. I decided it would be a good cold weather supper so I went to work. A little way into the prep, I decided to deconstruct the recipe. Rather than make a soup served over toasted croutons, I reduced the soup to a thick sauce much like a very chunky marinara and served it over toasted slabs of chewy country-style bread. I served it with a small pan-grilled pork cutlet. I still have enough left over so I can add some chicken broth and return it to a soup consistency for lunch over the next couple of days. I’ll also stir in some left over kale to reinvent the dish.
The soup is very simple – a diced onion, sweated tender with a tablespoon or two of olive join, a diced carrot, a 28 oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, a teaspoon of dried thyme, three or so cans of reduced sodium chicken broth and a can of rinsed canellini beans make a great hearty soup. Break up the tomatoes as you heat them. You can use a spoon in the pot or do what I did. I fished wipe the tomatoes out of the can and squeezed them through my fingers into the pot. Is that rustic or what? You can reduce the amount of broth and cook the soup down to a saucy consistency. I served it of great over a thick slap of country-style bread toasted under the broiler. If you make it wet and soupy, you can cut the toast into chunky croutons and put them in the bottoms of soup bowls before adding the soup. I added parmesan shavings. If we hadn’t had a hard freeze, I’d have sprinkled some chopped basil on top.