By Dana Jacobi
During the heat of summer, the simple clarity of Italian food, the sweet-sour pungency of Southeast Asian dishes, and the spicy yet cooling effect of Indian food are especially refreshing.
Now, as the weather cools down, the flavors and mood of another kind of cooking come to mind for me.
During a winter I spent in Paris, I cooked hefty soups and stews constantly to drive out the damp chill, and because they were easy to assemble in my so-called kitchen, truly a closet where the stove consisted of a double electric hot plate.
Complete dinners made in one pot, they also let me take advantage of the seasonal vegetables available at a local market, which keep us connected to the seasons and the earth.
Recently, in San Francisco, I reconnected with the pleasures of this rustic kind of French cooking. The reminder came from dinner braised in a brick oven at Zuni Cafe, a California bistro dedicated to French and Italian country and regional cooking. It made me crave the earthy, one-dish dinners I had made in Paris. Seeing duck on the menu, and the flavorful roast chicken for which this restaurant is famous, sparked an idea.
Why not reinvent garbure, a duck with cabbage and bean soup from southwestern France that I made often in Paris.
I later slimmed it down, making it more suited to ingredients readily on hand, by using roast chicken and canned chickpeas in place of the duck and white beans that, in the original version, are cooked in duck fat. Diced winter squash, particularly Kabocha, which as has a creamy quality reminiscent of egg yolk, helps replace the richness of the duck fat.
Using the dark green outer leaves from sweet Savoy cabbage, as Judy Rogers does at Zuni, will enhance the flavor, too. So would making a supply large enough to serve it several times, which concentrates the flavors of this country soup every time you reheat it.
French Country Bean Soup
Makes 8 servings (with chicken).
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 carrot, cut in half-moons
- 1 rib celery, sliced
- 1 small onion, chopped in bite-size pieces
- 1 small leek, chopped in bite-size pieces
- 3 outer leaves Savoy cabbage, rolled and cut in 1/2" strips
- 4 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 cups squash (e.g. butternut), peeled and diced
- 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas or white beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cooked chicken cut in bite-size pieces(optional)
- Heat oil in medium Dutch oven or large, deep saucepan. Sautï¿½ carrot, celery, onion, leek, and cabbage until leaves are bright green and other vegetables start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add thyme, garlic, squash and beans. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in chicken, if using. Ladle soup into deep bowls and serve accompanied by toasted slices of whole-grain French bread or other rustic bread. (This soup reheats well. It keeps up to 5 days, covered, in refrigerator.)
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
19 g. carbohydrate,
5 g. protein,
4 g. dietary fiber,
464 mg. sodium.