This post is part of the Food Matters Project, a cooking collaboration among participating bloggers. Each week, we will cook a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which places an emphasis on mindful and sustainable eating. Follow along with us!
This week’s Food Matters Project recipe was Roasted Asparagus & White Bean Soup, chosen by Adrienne of Adrienneats. Initially I was surprised by the choice of a heavier soup this time of year. However, I forgot one common aspect of spring: allergies. The changing temperatures ended up giving me a nasty cold, which meant when it came time to make this soup, I was craving it intensely. I welcomed this delicious soup into my arms, and although I could not smell anything, it provided instant comfort (plus lots of veggies for my immune system!)
A good soup is hard to improve upon. This soup starts with the foolproof combination of leeks and potatoes, which adds creaminess and richness to the chicken stock base. I had not done much cooking with white beans before and really liked their taste, finding them lighter than their red and black counterparts. (Bittman also has a recipe for White Bean Chili in the book, which I now want to try.) I chose to primarily use green cabbage instead of asparagus in this soup, per Bittman’s first variation. This was a big step for me as I’ve experimented with cooking cabbage by stir-frying or boiling it, but have failed to find a way to prepare that I really like. (It either comes out too chewy or flavorless.) This soup changed that; cooking the cabbage with leeks, garlic, and olive oil and then boiling it with the broth resulted in soft ribbons of cabbage that were really flavorful. Thanks for making cabbage actually taste good, Mark!
There are a lot of little variations of this soup which can make a big difference. Two are suggested in the book: substituting cabbage for asparagus, and adding sausage. I decided to try both as I ended up making this soup twice. The first time I prepared it for my housemates, I made the soup with cabbage, choosing to roast asparagus and serve it on the side. Bittman recommends you serve this soup with parmesean, but I found a gooey-er cheese to be even better. Shredding monterey jack cheese on top, along with a few pieces of roasted asparagus for garnish, resulted in a smoky, melted topping, not unlike the bubbling cheese on top of french onion soup. A small sprinkling of bacon pieces on top completed the dish.
I really took Bittman’s point about reducing the amount of meat one eats and changing the way you use it to heart. In his book he points out that many cultures use meat sparingly, for flavor or garnish. That way you still get the taste but are reducing your overall consumption. This soup is a perfect example: it is mostly vegetarian, but can be helped by a little meat flavor. The second time I made this soup I decreased the potatoes and added vegan maple sausage, which added protein and, paired with the cabbage, resulted in a taste reminiscent of yummy cabbage rolls.
For the original recipe, see page 110 of the Food Matters Cookbook, or check out Adrienneats and take a look at other FMP interpretations here!
Kenzie Zimmer is a senior at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. She is looking forward to running away from her work and floating down the town river as soon as it gets warm enough.