Serve it with Armanac. Why not?
When we stopped at a supermarket in France on the way home from The Netherlands, I went a little crazy in the produce section.
Like I mentioned below, I bought white asparagus on spec, but I also picked up courgettes, fresh spring garlic, fennel bulbs, and a lovely pot of basil. Our car smelled wonderful as we crossed the Channel.
A few days later, I soaked the cannelloni beans I've had for a while, determined to make a soup with many of my fresh French foods.
It came out beautifully. I especially liked the texture boost added by the baguette slices floated on top. They soaked up the fennel-flavored broth, just enough to make them cut-able with a spoon. The next night I decided to cut back on the oil, so I toasted the slices in a toaster instead of frying them in oil. Equally delicious, more toasty than oily.
Even if you don't go to France to get the ingredients, you can still make this at home. Here's how:
French White Bean Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 spring garlic cloves, minced, or regular garlic
3 carrots, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably made with fennel
1 lb cannelloni beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 courgette (zuchinni), halved and sliced into 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup red wine
black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
1 small baguette or ciabatta loaf, sliced into 1/3 inch slices
fresh basil, snipped
Heat the olive oil in a heavy stockpot. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the celery, carrots, and fennel, and continue to sauté for another 5 or 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the stock and the cannelloni beans, the rosemary and bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour, or until the beans are soft. Add water or stock as needed. (Cooking time can vary, depending on altitude and age of the beans. Best to taste to see if they’re done.)
Add the courgette (zucchini) and the red wine, and cook for 20 minutes or until the zucchini is softened. Adjust the seasonings, adding black pepper and salt to taste.
Meanwhile, heat a small amount of olive oil in a sauté pan. Pan fry the baguette slices until they are toasted on each side. Alternatively, you can toast them in a toaster.
Ladle the soup into a bowl. Place a slice or two of toasted baquette on top, and garnish with basil. You can also spoon the soup over the bread, which softens it a bit more.