[Weekend bread and cheese, May 2008.]
So a couple of weekends ago I made this soup. It wasn’t fancy — in fact, was decidedly un-fancy — but because this is a strange place sometimes, and it was freezing cold on a Saturday eve despite the calendar showing that inexorable march toward ‘summer,’ all I could think of was eating soup and bread and cheese for dinner, and I wanted to be quick about it.
It all started with a can of beans. Just that! Earlier in the week I’d wanted to make a little stir fry of white beans, asparagus, garlic, and green beans served over quinoa for a quick and nourishing supper, but when I opened the can of beans they were what I can only describe as gloppy; I guess when they were processed and put in the can they went mushy, which is fine for soups, but not so fine for using in stir fries (another argument for using dried beans). Not being one to waste anything, and since they seemed OK otherwise, I put the gloppy beans away to save for later, and swapped chickpeas instead (that was a good dinner).
The white beans languished, until the weekend. I can’t remember what I did that particular day — probably my standard of farmers’ market-run-angst about doing projects-bake something-etc. — and then suddenly it was an hour before we had to leave for my friend’s place and no dinner in sight. Thank goodness for those beans, though. I whipped them out of the fridge and along with a can of crushed tomatoes, a ton of garlic, and many large handfuls of spinach, I concocted an easy, delicious soup that took all of about 15 minutes to put together (what’s also fun is that most ingredients will be handily in your pantry, and it’s quite open to adaptation). Some good bread and cheese and hummus rounded out the meal, warming me up through-and-through. While really I wanted nothing more than to lie on the couch reading more Tudors-inclined books (the fascination has not yet waned, though I’m sure it will eventually), I rallied enough to make it down to her apartment to shiver through a fireworks display over the bay — and I owe it all to the soup.
[Spinach, for soup, May 2008.]
All of a sudden it’s mid-May; Memorial Day, and its lovely, luscious, three-day weekend looms on the horizon. The weather has turned yet again. I am dreaming of kayaking on Tomales Bay in the hot sun, dipping my fingers in the cool water and waving to the errant seal as I row by, but I think the summery temperatures have fled for awhile. Still, the sun is finally out, and I have a plate of leftover rice and beans for my lunch; I shouldn’t complain. After a few days in the Texas heat, I’m reminded why I chose to live here, in this chilly city that is blessedly free of oppressive humidity I so lamented when I lived in DC (Friday notwithstanding, it’s a rare day when a heat wave lands in San Francisco).
But no matter how I try to cheer myself on toward Indian Summer (months to go!), on a day like today, when I’m wearing a sweater and a scarf along with my coat (note: it’s not a winter coat, but a coat it still is) all I want to do is eat something warm. I may crave cold and slippery soups on a hot fall afternoon — fresh tomato and cucumber, with basil, is a favorite — but during the rest of the year, I need something that’ll keep me going. A bowl of soup, especially when it’s this flavorful and soothing, helps me forget that even though it’s full spring I’m wearing a down vest with my hands stuffed deep in the pockets, wishing I’d brought gloves.
California, it’s a good thing I love you so.
White bean and tomato soup, or, pantry soup
4 cloves garlic
4 cups spinach, coarsely chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (or 3 tomatoes, diced, juices reserved)
1 carrot, diced
4 cups vegetable broth or water
2 Tb. dried basil
1 can white beans
salt and pepper
Saute the garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, carrot, broth or water, dried basil, and beans. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the spinach, and simmer until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, half-covered, for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.