Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Farro and Herb Minestrone

There are one million and one delicious versions of an Italian style bean soup that it is almost impossible to narrow down a favorite. So the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to start from scratch, and that is what I’ve done here. I don’t really know if this is technically a minestrone, a pasta e fagioli or what, all I do know is that it is really delicious. I have become a huge fan of farro as I work to add whole grains to my diet, and decided it would be an interesting replacement for pasta in a brothy soup. The nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture make it hearty and interesting.

Let me explain my process. Cooking the farro separately keeps the soup from becoming thick or pasty. I love the herbal flavor of this soup – I think that’s what makes it more than broth with beans – but I find chopped rosemary can be too woody in a soup, so I like to simply infuse the broth with rosemary (and crisp celery leaves) then add the other freshly chopped soft herbs at the end so they are bright. I read for years about using a parmigiana cheese rind in soup and thought it was some sort of trendy, over the top silliness, but turns out it is really a great idea. It adds some depth and saltiness, and a hint of nuttiness that goes so well with the farro. Buy a wedge of real parmigiana for the fricos and cut off the rind. But you can (and should) save the rind of any wedge in a Ziploc in the freezer, though I have now found that the better cheese counters at the grocery now sell rinds. I love Italian borlotti beans, and sometimes find them at stores or online, most easily at Hispanic markets where they are labeled Roman beans. If you can’t find them, lovely white cannellini are perfect. Topping this soup with crispy cheese fricos is pretty and interesting, but feel free to just grate some cheese directly over the bowl.

Farro and Herb Minestrone
Serves 6
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For the Soup
  1. ½ cup farro
  2. 1 ½ cups water
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 carrot, finely diced
  5. 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  6. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  7. ¼ cup vermouth
  8. 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  9. 5 cups of chicken stock
  10. 3 – 4 stalks fresh rosemary
  11. 5- 6 celery leaves
  12. 1 (2-inch) piece of rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional but worth it)
  13. 1 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  14. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  15. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  16. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  17. 1 ( 15.5 ounce can) borlotti beans or cannellini beans
For the Fricos
  1. 12 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano -Reggiano cheese
  2. freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup
  1. Put the farro and water in a small saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see that the farro is cooked through, but still has a little bite to it (yes, al dente). If there is still some water left, drain it off, though the grains may absorb all the water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium and add the carrot, celery and onion. Stir to coat with olive oil, then cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, then splash in a 1/4 cup of vermouth or water and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Continue cooking until the vegetables are a light amber color, soft and glassy, another 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic to the pot, stir well and cook 1 – 2 minutes – don’t let the garlic brown. Pour in the chicken stock, then drop in the cheese rind. Tie the rosemary stalks and celery leaves in a piece of cheesecloth or place in a mesh tea ball and add to the pot. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the herb bundle and the cheese rind and give the broth a go with an immersion blender. You don’t want to completely puree, but it gives the broth a little more body, so just 4 -5 whirs around the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the chopped herbs. Stir in the farro. Rinse and drain the beans then stir them into the soup. Keep the pot on the heat just until the beans and farro are heated through.
For the Fricos
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place 1 Tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Grind over a little black pepper. Neaten up the edges, slightly flatten the tops and cook for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. The fricos will crisp as they cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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