It’s been gray and chilly, and little rainy, for the better part of the last week in Seattle. People did tell me it would get like that here (fact: every single person I told I was moving to Seattle responded with “But don’t you know it’s cloudy and rainy there all the time?!”) so I can’t say I am surprised by the change. I also may have tempted fate by making this warm grain salad with winter veggies a couple weeks ago when it was definitely still summer.
The photo above was taken at the top of a hill in my neighborhood. Even when gray and cloudy – or maybe especially so in that weather – I find the sky here to be just beautiful.
The way that the clouds and the light, whatever light there is, play off of one another is breathtaking. This weekend the wind was blowing thick storm clouds across the sky at a break-neck pace, so fast that there were moments when the next set of clouds couldn’t keep up and the sun broke through in bright, brilliant flashes. At times it felt foreboding and at times fantastical, like it should have been accompanied by the music from The Wizard of Oz.
On this same misty walk we found that we were walking on sidewalks covered with these little guys.
Though cute in their own way, seeing as many snails as we did out and about almost made me thankful we didn’t move here early enough to plant a garden this year.
In any case, I am welcoming the cooler weather with a soup – but it’s called Summer Minestrone Soup, so it’s still slightly rebellious. Take that weather gods!
In addition to being delicious, this soup is very healthy. That is important to me after my blackberry dessert gorging of late. I have recently jumped back into my pre-cross-country move workout routine, and it ain’t pretty. I can use all the help I can get. Although, I have gone running 5 of the last 6 days, so that is something to be proud of. Maybe I will make another blackberry dessert to celebrate!
Ok, so while I work on my willpower, let me tell you about this soup. It is from a cookbook I acquired recently at a huge used book store in Seattle. I bought it even though after moving all my books across the country I vowed to never ever buy another one (did I mention I have to work on my willpower?) It is called A Cook’s Guide to Grains by Jenni Muir.
The book is lovely, and quite informative, with a substantial section in the beginning devoted to explaining how grains are farmed and processed, and why they are good for your health. She also has a section for each of the grains in the book that discusses what it is, what it goes with, where it comes from, etc. All fascinating.
It’s not a vegetarian book, so I’ve generally had to make substitutions in the recipes I’ve tried. But a book devoted to grains is definitely vegetarian-friendly given how useful they are in providing that hearty substance in a meal that people commonly associate with meat. I use grains in my own cooking all the time.
Case in point, this soup. It is very substantive, and even though I pointed out its summery title above, it is definitely feeling like fall around here and this soup was warm and nourishing to match. It combines farro, fresh beans and pasta all in one dish – what could be better?
Its clear broth and the veggies I added to my version make it kind of like a souped up (sorry, couldn’t help it!) version of the classic Chicken Noodle soup…without the chicken of course. This also made it the perfect soup for me to prepare last week for my boyfriend who had our household’s first cold of the season – a sure sign of fall if anything is.
Sick or otherwise, this soup hits the spot and I hope you will make it for yourself no matter what season it feels like where you live.
Adapted from A Cook’s Guide to Grains
Makes a big pot (about 10 cups) of soup
I adjusted the proportions of liquid and grains/pasta from the cookbook recipe, and in turn the cookbook author notes that she adjusted the proportions from the original recipe to suit her tastes. So, you should feel free to adjust the proportions as you see fit! Additionally, I would really use fresh beans if at all possible – even if they are not the type of beans called for (I used a different type than the book called for). You coooould use canned beans if you had to, but the fresh beans just give it such a different taste, a bright yumminess, if you will.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 cup farro
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 14 oz fresh shelled cranberry beans
- 8 oz button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 1 small-med zucchini, sliced
- 1 small-med yellow squash, sliced
- Up to 2 cups water (I used the pasta water from my linguine, but if you use leftover pasta you could use plain water)
- 4 oz cooked pasta (I used linguine), cut (when cooked) or broken (before cooked) into bite-sized pieces
- salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil is a large soup pot. Add the onion and cook over low heat until translucent (5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally.
If you are cooking the pasta fresh for this soup, put another pot of water on to boil for that. If you are using leftover cooked pasta, skip ahead to the next step.
Add the farro and garlic to the pot with the onions, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
To that, add in the stock, bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
If you are cooking the pasta fresh for this soup, break the pasta up into bite-sized pieces before cooking (simply by breaking the bunch of linguine in half once and then again) and then cook according to directions. Once it is done, set aside. Make sure to stir a drizzle of olive oil into it so that it doesn’t solidify into a gummy mass while it’s waiting to be added to the soup.
Add the beans to the soup pot and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and squash to the soup pot and then add the water a 1/2 cup at a time until it is as soupy as you would like it. Then bring back up to a simmer and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until the grains and beans are tender.
Stir the cooked pasta into the soup and allow it to heat through briefly.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately (don’t burn your mouth!) It also makes great leftovers, although the grains, pasta and beans absorb a lot of the liquid so you may need to add more stock or water when you reheat it.