Today seemed like a good day to have a pot of beans simmering on the stove. As a sort of comforting reminder that we’re home, that the house is being warmed from the kitchen out, steaming the cold windows, and that we have time to let them take their time. And because a pot of beans provides potential for more – for a pot of something bigger and more nourishing that will feed a handful of people who are important in our lives. It means a starting point for me to experiment with without any particular plan. Yes, I can read a lot into a bean.
What happened to this particular pot of beans had, as usual, a lot to do with what I had in the fridge. The thing about kale is that three and a half bunches of it take up a lot of space in the crisper, but you can cook it down to hardly anything. And the thing about leftover crusty bread is that it makes fantastic French toast, which I need to shake the morning habit of. And so I remembered a hearty vegetable-bean-crusty bread soup-stew of years past – one that, if memory serves, you refrigerate and then reheat by baking it the next day – the top gets all crusty and golden, the soup itself transforming into a thick stew as the liquid gets soaked up by bread that would otherwise be too hard to do much with. If you have a Parmesan rind in your fridge, toss it in as the soup simmers.
There are a few ways to do the toast: cut thick slices, toast them, then set a piece in the bottom of each bowl, drizzle with good olive oil, ladle the soup over top and grate Parmesan over the whole thing. Or run the bread, topped with grated cheese (and oil too if you like) under the broiler, and set a piece atop each bowl of soup. Or ladle the soup into ovenproof dishes and top with bread and cheese a la French onion soup, place the bowls on a baking sheet and run the whole lot under the broiler.