Baby, it's cold outside. Here in the Northeast, we've reached the point where frost must be scraped off of windsheilds and the tables turn on the office smokers. Whereas they have been the object of envy and resentment during the golden autum days because they are outside puffing while the drones are inside grinding the wheels of commerce, now who's the dummy?
But I must not get off the message and the message is soup. How about we make a hearty, cheap and easy favorite. The first time the Soup Lady was exposed to this soup, she misunderstood the Brooklynite who introduced her to it and thought she was eating Scuttle 'n Bee.
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 (15 1/2-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained
2 bunches escarole, stemmed, chopped and washed three times
Salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken stock
In large pot, saute garlic in olive oil until soft. Add beans with their liquid and bring to boil. Add chopped and washed escarole, salt, pepper, red pepper and chicken stock. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until escarole turns soft — but not mushy — and light green. Ladle into serving bowls and swirl in a tablespoon of pesto.
There are some slight variations that families have developed when using this recipe, but remember to use lots of garlic. The Martha Stewart version calls for dried beans and pancetta, but the dried beans are not necessary - canned ones work very well for our purpose here, and the addition of pancetta is like putting a dress on a billygoat. This soup was born of poverty, necessity and resourcefullness and doesn't need to be tarted up. And stick to a basic pesto, too - basil leaves, garlic, oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Nothing else.