I am finally reassembling my brains after my first book release. This is the first really good thing I’ve cooked since late November, or perhaps even earlier.

————-

This recipe descends from Mark Bittman’s in Kitchen Express.

I am a big soup lover.  It’s warm, it’s soothing, it’s restorative.  With good broth, it puts life back into you.  And you can dunk things in it, which I enjoy, because then you get an extra set of flavors that go with the soup.

I am not one of those people who carefully separate the flavors on their plates, or who eat their food in order.  My ideal way to eat is to switch back and forth between things until I get to the very end, which I try to make the “perfect bite.” For example, if I’m eating a salad, I want a bite with one bit of everything I liked in the salad stacked up on the fork.

With soup, this just happens, very little planning required, with almost every bite.  (Except for things like udon, where there’s only so many fish sausages to go around.)

Ah, what am I trying to do here, justify soup?  I just like soup.  There’s no reasonable or rational about it.

I used to work at Panera, years ago, and I never got tired of their food…except for the soup.  I quickly became a much better soup-maker than they could pull off, because their soups sit on the heater all day, and they have to be shipped in frozen, which just kills the flavor.   That was a proud day for me, the day I realized that I could make better soup than you could buy at Panera.

I went through a phase earlier on when I tried to add broth to everything, because I had read that it makes a lot of foods taste better.  This, in my opinion, is mostly crap.  Water works just as well, for the most part.

Except in soup.  Some soups.

I used broth in this soup, mostly because I had broth to use up and a roast chicken in the fridge waiting to be turned into the next batch.  I sense that broth isn’t entirely necessary, however, because of the meat and the fennel and tomatoes.

Mmmm…fennel. It smells licorice-like, but it tastes like pure deliciousness. I suspect that people who don’t like licorice will still like this.

White Bean Soup
1 mild Italian sausage, skin removed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil (if necessary)
1/4 c red wine vinegar
3-4 c good-quality, low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can white beans
A handful of chopped fresh spinach
2 t fennel seeds, crushed
1 t dried basil
Parmesan rind (or 2 t grated good Parmesan or other hard grating cheese)(optional)
salt to taste

Brown the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks as it cooks. As the sausage finishes browning, add the garlic. (If the sausage didn’t release much oil, add a little to the pan with the garlic to help keep it from burning.) As the garlic turns brown, add the red wine vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any caramelized sausage bits.

Add the broth and the rest of the ingredients except the salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine the flavors, then add salt to taste.

Serve with bread, cheese to grate, and capers (on the side).