Sunday, March 25, 2012

White Bean and Orzo Soup with Fresh Italian Herbs

This past year, two of my very close girlfriends have been undergoing breast cancer treatment. As a survivor myself, I know how hard it is to ask for help. It is also difficult to keep up with all of the doctors' appointments, keep your energy up and take care of everyday life. It's hard to know what to do to help. One thing I know I can always do is make some healthy eats for them.

My friend who was just diagnosed has always been crazy about my soups, so much so, that she suggested I start my own line of healing soups. I thought that was pretty darn cute of her. But she is one to always find new business propositions. The challenge I have when creating recipes for her is that she is allergic to garlic. I adore garlic and rarely make anything savory without it. It is such a great flavoring agent and nothing is quite the same.

To offset the lack of garlic, I decided to ramp up the flavor with robust fresh herbs. This soup is loaded with nutrient dense vegetables. Great white Northern beans provide protein and additional fiber. The fresh tomatoes and roasted red peppers boost the vitamin content and add lovely color and flavor to the soup. Caramelized onions lend a hint of sweetness. This is a meal in a bowl. Serve with a nice crusty Italian bread and a simple green salad if you are very hungry.

Today at the farmers' market had some absolutely beautiful tomatoes (I love this time of year in AZ).

We have some wonderful red Russian kale coming out of the garden, so that became part of the mix.

I also grabbed some fresh thyme and oregano from our herb garden. I bought some fresh basil for another recipes that didn't happen this week, so I really had some great stuff to start with!

White Bean and Orzo Soup with Fresh Italian Herbs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced, approx. 3 cups
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 large tomatoes, 1/2 inch dice
3 roasted red peppers (I used jarred this time), 1/2 inch dice
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh oregano leaves, chopped fine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 fresh cracked pepper
6 cups vegetable stock
1 - 14.5 oz can Great Northern beans, liquid included
1/2 cup dry orzo
1 bunch kale chopped into small pieces
2 oz fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

In a 6 quart heavy bottomed saucepan or stockpot over medium low heat, add olive oil, onions, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Saute onions until they are just turning golden and slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally. This may take a little bit of time, but it is worth the wait to coax out the sweetness of the onions. This will give you time to chop your fresh herbs. 

Add diced tomatoes, roasted red peppers, oregano, thyme, black pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Raise heat to medium. Simmer until tomatoes just soften and liquid is almost gone, about 5-7 minutes.

Add vegetable stock and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add white beans, orzo and kale. Simmer for 15 more minutes until orzo and kale are both tender. Remove from heat and add basil. Let sit for 10 minutes. This will allow the basil to release it's flavor. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.

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