Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet As Pie: Tuscan Bean Soup with Shrimp

I just made this, finally, after buying the shrimp on Tuesday and letting it sit in the fridge for three days now.

It is fabulous.

Here's the deal:

Pioneer Woman: Tuscan Bean Soup with Shrimp

Verdict: hearty, flavorful, pretty, and spicy. Absolute win. Easy to make, easily doctorable in many ways to meet your audience, and serves a LOT.
Cook it again: Most definitely.
Cost factor: $22ish.  Shrimp is the big element, but the other things add up if they are not in your pantry.

I wasn't sure about this recipe, mostly because in her blog post, PW makes a comment about the shrimp part seeming weird.  She got inside my head!  But the truth is that I love hearty bean soups, I love shrimp, and the rest of this sounded pretty darn good.  I was game.

Then we went to BJ's Club and shrimp were out of control expensive, so I put this on hold a little bit. (Man, do I miss Costco!)  But that was last week! This week, the kids and I went to the grocery store and found a smaller bag of frozen, cleaned, easy-peel shrimp, so I jumped on it.

My kitchen was a disaster and WHM was playing at the sink while I made this, so I didn't take a photo of all the ingredients before I started cooking.  I'll list them here:

salt and pepper
onion and garlic and oil
dried parsley and dried oregano
fresh kale and fresh basil
two cans of diced tomatoes, 1 can of tomato paste
red pepper flakes
white wine
6 cups chicken broth
parmesan or romano cheese to grate

Mick has tended to keep kale in the house lately, so it was really a matter of making sure we had the shrimp, wine, and basil.  We shop at a local farm stand for most of our produce, and about a week ago we needed basil.  They don't give you just a little bit; they give you enough to live on nothing but basil for a month.  I hate that, mostly because I hate throwing it all away in the end!  So I was glad to have this recipe, which calls for generous amounts of basil.  Yay! (For the record, we will still end up throwing away more basil than we'd even eat in a year. Imagine a plastic grocery bag -- the kind with handles, that you'd get at checkout -- and FILL it with basil.  That's how much you get.)

All week I have been thinking that I needed to grab some white wine.  Yesterday we were in BJ's again, and I couldn't for the life of me remember WHY I wanted the wine. So, thinking that it was just for evening sipping while I read a book and watch tv, I decided to save the money and skip it.  Doh!  I needed it for this recipe!  Fortunately, you can substitute chicken broth, and I honestly don't think the recipe or flavor suffered at all for the lack of wine.

Anyway.  If I have to issue a warning about this recipe, it is to PREP ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS AHEAD OF TIME.  I always read a recipe and try to judge what I need to do up front and what can be done as I cook.  This recipe is extraordinarily easy, but everything happens pretty quickly in the beginning and at one point I had to turn the burners off because I couldn't keep pace.

To start out, you dice an onion and five cloves of garlic.  Cook them together for a few minutes and then add the oregano, red pepper, and tomato paste, letting the bottom of the pan get nice and "flavorful."

When you son says, "Mommy, you are booooorning dat," add the wine/broth to deglaze the pan and get all that flavor into your soup.

Then add the beans (rinsed) and diced tomatoes (straight out of the can).

Be warned: almost all my photos are blurry.  The steam messed with me!

Then add your six cups of broth, and you'll have this really, well ... soupy ... soup. Toss in some salt and pepper.

Let it simmer for about 30 minutes.   While it simmers, sauté up your shrimp with the parsley. PW used fresh parsley.  I can't keep that stuff for longer than the day I bought it, so I used dried parsley.  It looks so pretty, doesn't it?!

Now rip up some kale and throw it in.  Likewise the basil.  PW is not very clear on how much -- she says "a bunch."

Thing is, in our house kale doesn't come in bunches. It comes in bags.

So, just take a handful of handfuls and throw them in. I just kept adding it until it was all piled on top.  I was waiting for it to wilt like spinach, but it never really did.  Then I stirred it in, and quit when the whole thing looked pretty enough.  That's a nice descriptive standard, eh?  We're all about quantifiable data in these parts.

Then add some basil.  Lots.  

And that's it!

At this point, try to take some nice food stylist photos.  Realize you don't really have a very good lens for this, and deal with it.

Isn't it so pretty?! I did a decent job of (a) getting a good mix of stuff on the spoon and (b) hiding the disastrously messy kitchen sink! I did not do such a good job of making the focal point actually the food on the spoon.  Oh well.

Serve the soup with some parmesan shavings and a few of the shrimp on top.

To serve this to a large group I would probably back down the red pepper flakes a little bit, mostly because a little bit goes a long way.  As the recipe is, this is probably just on the wrong side of "too hot" for a regular dinner party. However, it's absolutely perfect for Mick, me, and anyone who likes spicy foods.

I feel like I've done not enough productive stuff this February break, but I've been so thankful for the time to cook. Our fridge and bellies haven't been this full in a long time! We've eaten well, relaxed, had ample hockey time, and now as the week winds down and this last weekend is busy with activities, I'm just starting to ramp back up to my usual work-time stress.  We can talk about that in a week.  :)

Go make this soup!


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