As you may have gathered from the four pages worth of bean-centric dishes I’ve blogged about here, we like our beans, so I was very happy to learn that dry heirloom beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine would be returning to our Wintertime Farmers’ Market.

Dinner:  December 14, 2009

I’ve made some version of this white bean and roasted garlic soup for ages – probably since my teenage vegetarian years. I’ve done it with canned beans, with fresh beans in season, and with cooked dried beans, and I have to say the the last version is probably my favorite, as the bean cooking liquid adds so much flavor to the soup. In previous versions, I’d roast a head of garlic at the same time the soup cooked, but now that I’m making batches of garlic confit on a fairly regular basis, I’ve taken to adding some of that instead. You don’t have to use white beans, of course – but I like them here for aesthetic reasons.

Garlic Confit

1-2 large heads of garlic
extra virgin olive oil

Separate the cloves from the heads of garlic, peel them, and lay them in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. Add just enough olive oil to cover, then cook in a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or so. Allow to cool, transfer the garlic and oil into a covered container or a glass jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

1 cup dried white beans
Kosher salt
12 cloves garlic confit, plus 1 T of the infused olive oil
2 cups leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cup diced carrot
¼ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2-3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 parmesan rind
1 cup diced peeled potato
1 cup small dry pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Rinse and pick through the beans, place them into a pot and cover them with 4-5 cups of cold tap water. Place a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are just tender. Season with salt and let the beans cook just a bit longer until they are seasoned. (You can do this ahead of time and store the beans in the refrigerator or freezer in their cooled cooking liquid.)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the garlic-infused oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrot, and celery, season with salt, and cook until soft. Add the oregano and bay, let cook briefly until fragrant, then add the wine, allowing it to bubble up for a minute or two. Add the parmesan rind, water, and potato, and let cook until the potato is tender when pierced with a fork. Mash the confit garlic cloves until they form a paste. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, the garlic confit, and the dry pasta, bring to a boil, then simmer until the pasta is al dente. Add the spinach right at the end, stirring it through until it is bright green and wilted. Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind and spoon the soup into bowls, topping with grated parmesan if desired.

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