I love rosemary because it is so ubiquitous. In San Francisco it grows, honestly, like a weed. It is a perennial, so you only need to plant it once and year after year it just keeps getting bigger and woodier, constantly producing fresh growth for cooking and reliably flowering with miniature blooms, some pink, some white, some a vibrant blue. It lives in my garden right between the lavender and the sage, and like the lavender, it needs no care at all - no water in our dry summers, no fertilizer in our sandy soil, no protection from our tenacious slugs.
So to me, any recipe that contains something dry I can pull out of the pantry and a branch of rosemary is always in season. Today's soup was a happy crockpot success that my husband and I enjoyed and the kids each ate half a bowl of. For our house that's pretty good.
I served it with my absolute favorite arugula salad, which is the one preparation that finally made me enjoy cooking with lemon and eating arugula, two things I hadn't been very interested in previously. I always thought of lemon as the thing you squirt on seafood in a restaurant, to cover up the too-fishy flavor of something past its prime. And it just tasted lemony. But, in this salad, the acid in the lemon juice transforms the flavors into something far more sophisticated than that. Later the same summer I discovered two other "magic" lemon recipes that are still among my favorites - taverna squash (zucchini boiled, then mixed with lemon and salt) and a fish marinade (half a lemon, some olive oil, salt and pepper).
Unfortunately, while dressing the salad, which is the last thing I do before serving it, my son added several sprinkles of water from his sippy cup, imitating me with the olive oil. Even my daughter noticed something was wrong - "ew, why is it so wet?," she asked, and then proceeded to eat two bowls full. I ate mine too, even though it was a bit drippy.
Rosemary White Bean Soup: (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa and The Gourmet Slow Cooker)
2 cups dried cannelloni beans
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large rosemary branch (6 to 7 inches long)
salt and pepper
In the morning before you head off to wherever you go, add eight cups of water and the beans to a stockpot. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer brusquely for five minutes. Turn off the heat, let it cool for five to ten minutes and carefully pour the beans and water into your crockpot. If you don't let it cool, you risk cracking the crockpot insert, if yours is ceramic, like mine. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary branch. Set the crockpot to cook on low for eight to ten hours. I have a feeling that you can skip the boiling step and just throw it all into the crockpot at once, but haven't tested it yet.
In the evening, puree some of the beans, either in a the blender or with a hand blender, then stir them back into the soup. At least thirty minutes before serving, add salt to the soup. Start with a scant tablespoon, stir it in and let it sit for a few minutes before tasting. If it needs more, add some. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a dollop of crème fraîche, heavy cream or sour cream and grind some pepper on top.
1 bunch arugula
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or so)
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
a bit of parmesan cheese, shaved
salt and pepper
Wash the arugula and cut off all the long stems with no leaves. Spin it dry and put it in a salad bowl. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts on medium heat. They will burn very quickly, so you should devote all your attention to the skillet while they toast. When they are brown and smell good, remove them from the heat and into a bowl. Right before you serve the salad, squeeze the lemon and toss it with the greens. pour the olive oil into the bowl, salt and pepper and toss. Sprinkle the pine nuts and cheese over the top of the salad.