Sunday, July 29, 2012

sticks and stones

It takes a crazy person to want soup on a summer day in Dallas. 

Call me pazzo!

It's been several years since I've been able to find a can of Coco Pazzo's Tuscan White Bean Soup with Escarole.  I've been missing that soup.  I remember the flavors so well and I can recall most of the ingredients so I headed to the kitchen attempting to recreate the zuppa.

In our kitchen hangs a picture taken from the book A Tuscan in the Kitchen by Pino Luongo.  He was the owner of the Manhattan restaurant Coco Pazzo which served this bean soup and later sold it commercially. 

The picture is a striking and unusual scene and I liked it so much I wrote the publisher for permission to copy the photo. 

Imagine a large field, the earth prepared for new crops to be planted.  At the far end of the field on an incline but with steeper hills beyond, sits a storied, stone farm house, as picturesque as can be and typical of many you see throughout Tuscany.  In the middle of the dirt plot stands a woman whose back is to you, her long braid falling to her waistline.  There appears to be a young child positioned behind her, leaning into the folds of her skirt though it's all very vague.

It takes a second look to realize the woman is a scarecrow.

In A Tuscan in the Kitchen, Luongo lists ingredients but not quantities.  I believe that's why I was first drawn to this book; I'm very comfortable cooking that way and since his soup recipe is not in the book, I did just that, based on my memory of the ingredients. 

The somewhat familiar smell floating through the house brought Spoke into the kitchen to see what I was cooking.  One glance into the stockpot, ribbons of escarole floating on the surface, and he knew instantly what was for dinner. 

It was 101 degrees and Spoke couldn't wait to eat this zuppa! 

Call him pazzo!

Escarole Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large, sweet yellow onion, diced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
8 cups vegetable stock, divided
12 cups water
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
 5 large green escarole leaves and most of the pale stalk,
2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped fine, divided
1 fifteen-ounce can Cannellini beans drained and rinsed
or other cooked, white beans
salt and pepper

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and add the onions,
seasoning them with a little salt and pepper. 
Cook until the onions are soft and golden.  
Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer. 

Add 4 cups vegetable stock, 12 cups water, potato, carrots,
and half of the rosemary, seasoning with salt and pepper. 
Cook until reduced and the vegetables are tender. 

Add the other 4 cups of stock,
escarole and the other half of the rosemary. 
Simmer until the soup has cooked down and is a bit denser. 
Add the beans and heat through. 

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