White Bean & Sausage Soup

December 6, 2010

We’re having a heat wave,
A tropical heat wave,
The temperature’s rising,
It isn’t surprising,…

~Irving Berlin

The longest night and shortest day of the year, winter solstice, nears. It occurs when the Earth’s axial tilt is furtherest from the sun, signalling a reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.

In Norse mythology, winter solstice was sacred to Frigga, goddess of marriage, childbirth and motherhood. (Ironically, rumors swirled that she was unfaithful to her husband, the chief deity Odin.) This night, Frigga toiled at her spinning wheel, weaving clouds and the world’s fates. So, the winter solstice is often called “Mother Night” for it was in darkness of night that Frigga tirelessly labored at her loom to bring exalted light to birth once again.

From the solstice, a celebration ensued which was dubbed Yule, from the Norse word Jul, meaning wheel. The ubiquitous christmas wreath, a symbol adapted from Frigga’s spinning wheel, reminds us of the cycle of the seasons and the continuity of life.

Here, it goes from chilly to the teens when the southerly, low-angled sun prematurely spills over the edge. I have yet to acclimate. So, time to bring on the winter comfort, and bean soup always fits the bill. These white beans are small, round, ivory legumes with a nutty, earthy flavor and chocked full of fiber and protein. A medley of vegetables, fresh herbs and mellow Italian sausages with distinctive scents of pork and anise make beloved pot, then bowl mates.

WHITE BEAN & SAUSAGE SOUP

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage, sliced diagonally about 3/4″ thick

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 T tomato paste
1 t ground dried cumin
1 t dried oregano

1 1/2 lbs dried Great Northern or Cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed
6 C chicken stock
4 C cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 fresh sage sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 T balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high. Add the sausage and brown, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside.

Return stockpot to medium high heat and add the carrots, celery, turnip, parsnip, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, cumin and oregano and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the beans, stock, water, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaf and balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat to high and bring to just a boil and then reduce heat to low or medium low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. If necessary, add more stock and water to assure the beans remain submerged.

When the beans are al dente, return the sausage to the pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Ladle into bowls and serve lightly drizzled with additional balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

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