It's dark and rainy today in New York, and according to Chez Panisse chef and cookbook author David Tanis, "the first cold weather wants bean soup." The success of this hearty Zuppa di Fagioli with Rosemary Oil, excerpted from A Platter of Figs, depends on gentle cooking. Prepare it a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld. If you like, just before serving stir in a few handfuls of small cooked pasta shells or wilted greens.
David serves this soup as part of a robust lunch alongside assorted salumi, pears and parmigiano, and topped off with crisp almond biscotti. He suggests garnishing it with garlic toast "one of the best things to eat." Be sure to use a delicate touch when rubbing the garlic over the toast, and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
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- Yield:8 to 10 servings
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large onions, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups (2 pounds) dried white beans, preferably new-crop, picked over and rinsed
- 2 pounds smoked ham hocks
- 12 cups water
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground fine in a mortar or spice mill
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon Rosemary Oil (recipe follows)
Warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook gently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for a minute more.
Add the white beans and smoked ham hocks. Cover with the water and bring to a boil. Skim off any surface foam and turn the heat to low. Simmer gently for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground fennel, red pepper flakes, and a good spoonful of salt. Continue cooking for 1 hour more, or until the beans are quite tender and the smoked pork has begun to fall apart.
Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, the refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.
To serve, reheat the soup over a medium flame, stirring frequently. Thin with water if it has thickened too much overnight. Check the seasoning and adjust.
Drizzle a teaspoon of Rosemary Oil on top of each bowl of soup.
To make the Rosemary Oil, warm 1/2 cup of olive oil in a small saucepan. Chop about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary and stir it into the oil. Turn off the heat.