The work horse of my vegetable garden continues to supply me with a few zucchini each week. This amazes me considering the unusually cool summer we had. But with a recent change in weather, the sunny days we longed for in the middle of summer have now caused a resurgence of growth, and I’m gladly accepting all the zucchini I can get until the plant meets its fate. Sadly, I anticipate this to be sooner rather than later. The plant is pathetic and over-tired looking. I guess I would be too if I spent the last few months cranking out offspring on a weekly basis.
In the summer, the good folks over at Cooks Country tossed this recipe into their August/September issue to whet the appetites of those who love soup. I am one of those people and was enticed by the idea of the soup being made in a crock pot, yet I didn’t have the heart to post this recipe in the middle of summer. Piping hot soup was probably the last thing on people’s minds especially in those areas where temperatures were soaring. So I figured I would give it a try, freeze the leftovers and post it when more seasonally appropriate.
If you’re one of those people who thinks that making soup in a Crock Pot seems a little far-fetched, I hear you. But if you’re familiar with Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country magazines, you can put your faith in their recipes. They’ve done all the testing, and I wasn’t disappointed. That said, this isn’t one of those Crock Pot recipes where you drop in the ingredients, turn the appliance on and forget about it for 6 to 8 hours. I really like those kind of recipes, and this one is sort of like that. However, there is a bit of prep beforehand and just before serving. But what it produces is a hearty, delicious soup with minimal effort and no need to be hovering over the stove stirring the pot.
Whether you work inside the home or out, or if you’ve got children involved in after-school activities, this soup partnered with a loaf of crusty bread is all you’ll need for dinner. Perfect for those chilly nights when you need a little help getting dinner on the table. And if you’re vegetable garden is producing a late-season crop of zucchini, this soup is a perfect use for it.
Recipe from Cooks Country August/September 2010
1 cup dried medium-sized white beans, rinsed and picked over
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed, leaves chopped
1/2 cup small soup pasta (I used Ditalini)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish
1. Cook Beans. Bring beans and enough water to cover by 1 inch to low boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are just beginning to soften, about 20 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to slow cooker.
2. Saute aromatics. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook until pan is nearly dry, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in broth, water, 1/2 cup basil, oregano, and pepper flakes and bring to boil; transfer to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender, 6 to 7 hours (or cook on high 5 to 6 hours).
3. Finish Soup. Stir zucchini, chard, and pasta into slow cooker and cook, covered, on high until pasta is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in remaining basil (chopped if you’d prefer) and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with Parmesan cheese.
– To make ahead: Soup can be made ahead through step 2 and refrigerated in airtight container for 2 days. To finish, bring to boil in Dutch oven. Stir in zucchini, chard, and pasta; reduce heat to low; and simmer until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
– Recommended dried beans are great Northern white beans or cannellini beans. Canned beans will not hold up in the slow cooking process.
– I have also made this soup using kale, and it works fine too.
– If you are going to make and freeze, I would strongly suggest leaving the zucchini uncooked, and adding the pasta and chard or kale when reheating the defrosted soup over medium low heat. I found that my previously added zucchini was too mushy for my taste when reheated. If left raw, the zucchini will be flavored by the soup and allowed to cook during the reheating. Same thing goes for the pasta.