Catalan Soup of White Beans & Shrimp

From my new favorite Cookbook:
The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health
By Nancy Harmon Jenkinsmediterranean-cookbook

“An irresistible invitation to share the healthiest diet in the world…this book makes an overwhelming argument that the things that taste the best are good for you.”   — Alice Waters

I was lucky enough to attend a cooking demonstration by this cookbook’s author,  Nancy Jenkins, at The Good Table in Maine last week.   Nancy is a food writer with a passionate interest in Mediterranean cultures and cuisines, sustainable agriculture, and farm-to-market connections.   She writes for the New York TimesSaveur, and Food & Wine, and divides her time between her farmhouse outside of Cortona, Italy and the Penobscot Bay region of Maine.

For the demo she made three recipes from the book:  Catalan Soup of White Beans, Garnished with Shrimp (absolutely amazing!),  Asparagus Risotto (easier than I thought to make, as long as you follow a few basic tips and have time to stir as it cooks…a well made risotto is nothing short of exquisite, and hers was!) and Lamb Meatballs with pine nuts in a lemony tomato sauce (tasty, healthy, easy and delicious!).

My dream is to have cooking classes at Hammertown.   The one at The Good Table was fabulous and really inspired me.   A group of about 15 sat around and watched her cook, shared the fruits of her labor, and discussed our love of cooking, of good food, etc.

We have her cookbook at Hammertown.   It’s one of those cookbooks in which you’ll find many great recipes and all of them healthy, approachable, and delicious.   These recipes are Mediterranean food at its best…a feast for your eyes and your tastebuds!  I TOTALLY recommend this book!!  (We have it here at the Barn but if you want to pick it up in Gt. Barrington or Rhinebeck, just call the Barn and we’ll send it over to the store for you.)

CATALAN SOUP OF WHITE BEANS
GARNISHED WITH SHRIMP

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This soup is from northeastern Spain and combines a number of good-tasting things that are good for you too….beans, seafood, and of course, those ever-present nutritional powerhouses — onions and garlic.

FOR THE BEANS:

  • ¼ cup diced Jamon serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham) or Italian prosciutto
  • 2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained  (TIP:  For fresher dried beans buy them at food purveyors where they have a large turnover…they will be more tender)

FOR THE SHRIMP:

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, with their liquid, coarsely chopped (fresh tomatoes, when in season)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 small dried red chilies, crumbled, or to taste
  • a pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled

GARNISHES

  • ¼ cup finely minced flat-leaf parsley
  • the zest of a lemon sliced into fine julienne threads

DIRECTIONS:

1.  To make the bean soup,  in the bottom of a heavy stockpot, combine the diced ham and olive oil and set over medium heat.   Cook gently, just until the ham bits start to sizzle, then add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender but not browned.    Add the rained beans along with 4 cups of cool water…enough to cover the beans to a depth of 1 inch.   Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the beans are tender, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size and age of the beans (that’s why going to stores that have a good turnover of beans is important…i.e., Rhinebeck Health food).   You may need to add water from time to time but it should only be boiling water.   When the beans are tender but not falling part,  stir in the salt,  remove the pot from the heat, and set aside.
2.  In another saucepan, prepare the sauce for the shrimp.   Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until the vegetables are tender but not browned–about 10 to 15 minutes.   Add the tomatoes, sugar and chilies, raise the heat slightly, and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes or until the tomato sauce thickens.   Stir in the saffron, then add the wine and raise the heat to high.   Cook, stirring frequently, until the alcohol has cooked off, about 5 to 7 minutes.    Taste the sauce, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
3.  Both the beans and the tomato sauce may be prepared well ahead of time and held until ready to serve…refrigerate if necessary.   When reheating the beans, you want to add a little more boiling water to loosen the bean stock, which gets quite starchy as it sits.
4.  Reheat the tomato sauce when ready to serve.   If the shrimp are very large, cut them into two or three pieces.   When the tomato sauce is bubbling, toss in the shrimp and cook very briefly, just until the shrimp have changed color…not more than 4 minutes.
5.  Serve the hot bean soup in shallow soup plates with the shrimp in their tomato sauce in the center of each plate. Garnish with the minced parsley and a few strands of lemon zest.