Sunday, April 13, 2008

Farro and White Bean Soup with Escarole and Rosemary-Parmesan No-Knead Bread

This is a start-it-the-night before meal. Around 22 hours before you plan on eating dinner the next night, for me it was 9pm., soak your farro for the soup and start the bread making process.
It's an unbelievably simple method in which time does all the work for you. I added Parmesan and fresh rosemary to the original recipe and found that you could probably add any number of different goodies to this base with terrific results. The base being everything except the cheese and herbs as I've typed it up below. I baked this loaf at 500 for 30 min and 450 for the last 15, but with all the cheese (4 oz. this time...will use less next time), I think baking at 450 the whole time would have been preferable.
I'd have taken photos of the process, but there are so many good ones already on the web for me to link to. :-) Jaden of Steamy Kitchen has a great step by step with a cute kid to boot for the basic bread. I kind of combined her basic recipe and added the amendments, the original NYT recipe, and Cook's Illustrated's cooking method for last night's bread. Confusing? Doesn't have to be...just try it out, you'll be amazed with the results.

The soup is delicious, if a little salty for my tastes. Just make sure to use reduced-sodium chicken or veggie broth, and no-salt added tomatoes and it will be great. Especially with a slab of homemade bread to dunk in it! Quick note...I used the called for escarole tonight, but really felt that the Swiss chard I used last time was a lot more flavorful. I also use more than the 2 cups of greens called for in the recipe, since they cook down considerably.

Farro and White Bean Soup with Escarole:

1 cup farro (I found it in the bulk section at Central Market...I'm sure Whole Foods would have this too)
2 15oz. cans white beans (I usually use cannelini beans for this, but had a can of Great northern beans and a can of butter beans in the pantry today. Note to self, CM Organics beans would have less salt.)
~2 Tbs olive oil
2 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, chopped (I use a handful of organic baby-size carrots)
1 rib celery, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh marjoram (didn't have so added a little herbs de Provence)
1 14 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes, not drained
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 Parmesan rind (save those rinds! I used the one leftover from the bread :-)
4 cups reduced-sodium, organic chicken or veggie broth
2 cups escarole leaves, chopped (Swiss chard, or kale sub nicely and I always use at least double this amount of greens!)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the farro in a sieve, then soak in lots of water to cover overnight. Discard any bits that float to the surface—these are hulls, and not pleasant to eat. [Another option I read but haven’t tried yet: Put farro in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside 1 hour.] Drain well.

Purée 1 can of beans with its liquid in a food processor or blender. Drain the other can of beans and rinse well. Set both aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy stock pot on medium heat.
Add pancetta or buffalo bacon and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Add onion and sauté 4 minutes.
Add garlic, carrot, celery and herbs; sauté 8 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
Stir in farro, undrained tomatoes, nutmeg, bean purée and whole beans, Parmesan rind, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add escarole and pepper. Continue cooking an additional 15 minutes. Test farro for doneness—it should be softened but still have some texture. Remove herb stems before serving.

Add salt if you feel it needs it. I've rewritten the recipe to use no-salt-added tomatoes because I felt it was too salty even not adding any extra salt. But, I didn't use farro tonight so that could make a difference. I do know that when I've made it before it seemed too salty then stick with the no-salt added tomatoes and at least that way you can add if needed.

Rosemary-Parmesan No-Knead Bread:
Yield: one 1½ lb loaf

3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 tsp regular salt, or 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (might adjust salt down if using more Parm)
2-4 oz grated parmesan (I just blitzed it in my food processor til crumbly)
2 tsp-1Tbs fresh chopped rosemary (I used 2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups warm water
Covered pot (five-quart or larger cast iron, Pyrex, ceramic, enamel...something that can go into a 450F oven.)
parchment paper

1. Mix dough: The night before (I did this at 9pm so that we could eat it at ~7pm the next evening), combine all dry ingredients in a big bowl. Then add the warm (not hot or you'll hurt your wee yeasties!) water and stir with your hand, my prefered tool, or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. It will be a shaggy ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 12-20 hours on countertop (I think I went about 19 today).

2. Shape & preheat: The dough will now be wet, sticky and bubbly. With a wet spatula, dump the dough on a floured surface. Fold ends of dough over about 4-5 times with the spatula or a dough scraper and nudge it into a ball shape. You can use your hands if you like, just keep your hands wet so that the dough does not stick. Cut a square of parchment large enough to overhang a skillet. Lay parchment inside skillet and drop a little cornmeal on it. Place dough onto parchment and cover with floured towel, or oiled saran for 2 hrs.. When you've got about a half hour left to the dough rest, slip your covered pot into the oven and preheat to 450F.

3. Bake: Your dough should have doubled in size. Remove pot from oven. Using the parchment to cradle the dough lift and place the whole thing into your pot, paper and all. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the cover from your pot, and bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210F. Remove and let cool on wired rack. If not eating right away, you can re-crisp crust in 350F oven for 10 minutes.

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