I absolutely did not intend to leave it so long between blog posts, but the circumstances which were in the process of changing dramatically around the time of my last post have now come to fruition, in fact I’d currently describe myself as kind of circumstance-less, and while all of it was out of my control, and has utterly derailed my plans for this blog and also literally everything else in my life, I can only wallow for so long and eventually have to attempt to flourish within my new non-circumstances. (If this sounds irritatingly cryptic it’s because I can’t speak too freely about the old circumstances till the new ones are secured, you know?) The wallowing is important! But it’s also important to be reluctantly practical.
And so, at last, a recipe: simple and soothingly chilled for these unsoothing and unchilled times; although our summer here in Auckland has been a particularly horrendous write-off culminating in the disastrous weather event at the end of January where we received all conceivable rain from all possible timelines all within one day, but with the rain comes humidity, and with humidity, a cold soup comes into its own.
You may look askance at the brief ingredient list: am I truly asking you to just puree some canned beans, and call it a soup? Well first of all, you’re an adult with free will, so you can add what you like to it, but it is — obviously — important to come at this from a place of already loving beans. I find cannellini beans to be truly delicious in a fairly un-tampered-with state (although I do also love a tampered-with bean), you may find that a splash of soy sauce or a crumbled stock cube isn’t even required; you may want to add sauteed shallots and garlic and celery and so on; as the cook and the eater, the recipe as I wrote it works for me. A bracing splash of pickle brine provides a spike of acidity, like dressmaking scissors slicing through velvet, and the opaque creaminess from the blitzed-up beans is luscious and elegant.
Of course, there’s the basil spinach oil to interrupt that unending ivory; basil for intensity of flavour, spinach because I had some in the fridge — dripped over the soup it rather resembles a giraffe’s pattern with the exposure turned up, or a forgotten petri dish, or a scene from the nuclear power plant in The Simpsons. The swirls are more accessibly pretty, but I am fond of the radioactive blob effect. Either way, the basil spinach oil lends peppery, herbal richness to the soup without overwhelming its frictionless calm. And as someone who tends to seek out from and recreate in food what I can’t get from the wider world, un-overwhelmed frictionless calm in a bowl sounds good to me.
Chilled Cannellini Bean Soup with Basil Spinach Oil
Very fast, very relaxed, a cool velvety pool of pureed beans with bright green lily pads of basil-tinted olive oil, and all you need is a blender. Recipe by myself.
- 2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans
- 1 teaspoon pickle brine or lemon juice (or caper brine, or red wine vinegar)
- 1/2 a stock cube of your choice, or a splash of soy sauce, or Maggi sauce
- 1/3 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 1/3 cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt, to taste
1: Place the unopened cans of beans in the fridge a couple of hours before you plan to eat to give them the titular chill — although I also like this at room temperature. Boil the jug (or if you don’t have a kettle, bring a small pan of water to the boil on the stovetop), place the spinach and basil leaves in a sieve, and, holding the sieve over the sink, pour the freshly-boiled water onto the leaves. Immediately follow this up by rinsing them with cold water from the tap, and set aside to drain. This is the fiddliest part of the whole recipe — blanching the leaves helps retain their bright lurid green, and seems to blend them into the olive oil more easily, too.
2: Drain the tins of beans — not too thoroughly and without rinsing, you want to keep some of the can liquid here — and place in a blender, along with the teaspoon of pickle brine or other acid and half stock cube, or splash of soy sauce, or whatever source of salinity you’re using. Fill one of the empty cans about 3/4 full with cold tap water, pour it into the blender with the beans, and blitz everything to a smooth puree. Taste to see if it needs more acid or more salt — I actually like this with pickle brine and lemon juice at the same time, but a little sour goes a long way here.
3: Divide the soup between two bowls and place them in the fridge to chill further while you make the basil spinach oil. Rinse any residual soup from the blender, and press the basil and spinach leaves against the sieve to remove as much water as possible. Blend the leaves, the half cup of olive oil, and a pinch of salt together until the basil and spinach are completely pulverised into bright green liquid, as opposed to oil with bits of green in it.
4: Drop spoonfuls of the basil spinach oil over the soup and either leave them as is or swirl, depending on which option appeals to you, and eat immediately.
- A few colour-contrasting splashes of chilli oil or sriracha would be invigorating here.
- You probably won’t use all the basil spinach oil at once, but any less oil and the blender wouldn’t be able to process it. Store any remaining in the fridge in a jar or sealed container and use within a day or two.
Stuck on You by Failure, a song that achieves all it needs to in the first fifteen seconds and yet still gets better; nonetheless, I urge you to let that opening hook giving way into drums wash over you at least once.
Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand by Primitive Radio Gods. It may just be the sickly lure of nostalgia or the shuffling mid-tempo Beastie Boys-y beat carrying it but one-hit wonders simply do not hit, wonderfully, like they used to! Also, which is a more dated concept right now: needing to use a phone booth, or having money in your hand?
Pace, Pace, Mio Dio performed exquisitely by Leontyne Price, as the youtube account name says, this is coloratura!
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