This week’s One Local Summer Challenge meal is escarole and bean soup.
To make proper escarole and bean soup, you need cannellini beans (also called white kidney beans). You could use Navy beans or some other white bean, but it really isn’t the same.
I’ve been looking to locally source cannelloni beans (or any bean for that matter) and haven’t had much luck. I’m aware of Cayuga Pure Organics in upstate NY. They sell at a farmers market in Brooklyn, but they don’t sell anywhere near me. It’s expensive to ship beans (same with flour). Still, Cayuga doesn’t have cannellini beans and are out of my 100 miles. That all being said, I’d gladly buy their beans if I could get my hands on them in person! The way they farm is exactly the kind of farm I want to be supporting.
Anyway, the escarole and bean soup…
I was explaining my dilemma to a friend—that I wanted fresh dried beans (not as much of an oxymoron as it sounds). She picked some up at Romeo & Cesare Gourmet. These will do fine.
To cook cannellini beans, soak them overnight and then rinse and drain. (The beans, purchased from Romeo & Cesare, began to sprout during the overnight soak—that’s fresh dried beans!) Add more water, bring to a boil, and let cook for about an hour to an hour and a half. Cover them for about two hours. That’s really all there is too it. The issue is the time it takes to get something so hard to be soft.
Next you need chicken broth. Locavore that I am, I still resort to boxed chicken broth for say, sauteéd greens. (I know, you’re shocked.) But this dish, which is a soup after all, demands fresh. I scavenged my freezer and came up with two chicken carcasses: one from Ox Hollow Farm and the other from a fresh chicken I got at Holbrook Farm. I put those up in a stock pot with some water, salt, pepper, fresh onion from Don Taylor, fresh garlic and carrots from Missy’s, my own parsley that I dried last summer, and cubed celeriac from Riverbank Farm, from my freezer. I brought that to a boil and then let it simmer until it tasted like chicken soup. Then I did the usual draining and de-fatting, and so on until it was just broth.
Finally, you need escarole. It’s harder to find locally grown escarole in Connecticut than nutmeg. Some farmers (I’m not naming names) don’t even know what it is! Luckily, I also go to a farmers market just over the border in NY, where farmers know their ‘scarole! Missy hooked me up.
Once you have your escarole, clean it well. I cut it into pieces as if it were a salad green then clean it in the salad spinner. Escarole takes a few rinses. A big bunch is going to wilt down to almost nothing, so don’t ever feel like you have too much.
Okay, now you’re ready to make the soup. I like Giada’s recipe, and I used the rind from Harpersfield Farmstead Cheese where she calls for Parmesan. (Harpersfield, NY is on the very edge of my 100 miles (and might even go over by a few inches. Holbrook Farm carries Harpersfield cheeses.) Where she calls for a 15 oz can of beans, I use two cups of mine.
There’s a similar to recipe at Gastronomer’s Guide but they also use tomatoes.