Spill The Beans...

I'll admit it -- I've fallen off the wagon with regard to my plan to clean out the freezer. I made some progress, and got rid of some of the items that had been lingering in there a questionably long time, but for everything that I removed and used, I found something new to take its place, and the freezer remains as full as ever.

In spite of this failure of will, one meal planning stratagem that remains enmeshed in my arsenal is making an effort to select chains of recipes that utilize the same ingredients, so that I waste less food. For example, I had to buy rosemary for Friday's ditalini with chickpeas, so I started looking for other recipes that also utilize the herb to get the most out of my purchase. This led me to the rosemary lemon white bean dip I made yesterday while I was home alone, and to request herbed baked eggs for breakfast from Justin this morning.

Tonight, it was on to Creamy White Bean Soup with Chorizo, for which we had all the ingredients on hand except the dried beans and the Mexican-style chorizo, which we were able to find at one of the Hispanic grocery stores in our neighborhood. We actually forgot to start soaking the beans the night before (I very rarely used dried beans; though everyone asserts their textural superiority, I prefer the convenience of the canned variety), so it turned out to be a rather late dinner by the time we had finished waiting for them to soak.

Contrary to the recipe, I decided to sauté the sausage first and cook the vegetables in it, as it seemed like a shame to waste the extra flavor, but the chorizo proved to be exceptionally, almost shockingly lean. I ended up having to supplement the meager drippings with olive oil anyway.

The most arduous part of the recipe proved to be chopping all the vegetables and herbs, as my trusty immersion blender made the puréeing process relatively painless. It was still more effort than I would want to expend on getting dinner on getting dinner on the table on a week night, but it was a worthy weekend project.

The chorizo definitely made this dish; without it, the soup would have been fairly bland and uninteresting. In fact, discovering the quality of the chorizo at our local bodega may have been the most significant thing to come out of this recipe experiment. I'm sure you can look forward to seeing more fresh-chorizo dishes around here in the weeks and months to come!

Creamy White Bean and Chorizo Soup
adapted from Bon Appétit

1 pound dried cannellini or Great Northern beans (generous 2 cups)
8 cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves; 1 smashed, 2 chopped
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large celery stalk, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
4 c. chicken broth
1 pound fresh chorizo link sausages, casings removed
1/4 c. whipping cream

Place beans in heavy large saucepan. Add enough water to pan to cover beans by 4 inches. Let beans soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain and rinse beans; return to same saucepan. Add 8 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, smashed garlic clove, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until beans are just tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt.

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaf.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme; sauté 2 minutes. Add 2 cups reserved bean cooking liquid, 4 cups chicken broth, and beans. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Cool soup 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté chorizo in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up lumps with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer chorizo to paper towels to drain.

Using slotted spoon, remove 1 1/2 cups bean mixture from soup; reserve. Working in batches, puree remaining soup in blender until smooth. Return puree to pot. Stir in reserved whole-bean mixture, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, chorizo, and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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