Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Sometimes I feel as if traveling is a bit of a glorified grocery shopping expedition. A trip anywhere is never complete without a visit to the local markets and food shops, right? I always make sure I bring an extra carry on, to store my stash.
I know I’m not alone in this, since my friends Sienna and Jane always bring me back goodies from their trips. And I respond likewise. Since we all travel quite a bit, we give - and more importantly, receive - some pretty nifty treats. Recent bounty has come from Lyon, Paris, Istanbul, Seattle, Cairo, Tel Aviv and Geneva. (I am going to forgive Jane her trip to Krackow which produced only a small statuette of a fiddling Jew).
So, when I opened my cupboard the other night I was faced with an international smorgasbord of ingredients. And no clear idea of how to mix them up.
Since I’ve been in soup mode recently, I decided to go that way. I opened up the sack of cranberry beans I brought back from San Sebastian last week. Alubia Pinta Alavesa are a Basque speciality, and they even have their own festival in October. More importantly, they are the loveliest shade of magenta.
I usually let colors guide me, but this time I threw caution to the wind and just grabbed the jar of kind-of-scary-black-mushrooms Sienna had brought me from Lyons. Trompette de la Mort. Trumpets of Death. Nice.
I did a bit of research and found out these are wild mushrooms, that are also called ‘black trumpet’ or ‘horn of plenty.’ I think I like that better.
Luckily the beans cooked up in just about an hour, even though I hadn’t soaked them (I think they were pretty fresh). I did, however, soak the mushrooms, since that is what it said to do on the label. In boiling water for 20 minutes.
The boiling beans smelled pretty much like boiling beans do. And lost their vibrant color while cooking, but were still a pretty pinkish shade by the time they turned tender. The Death Trumpets, on the other hand, filled my entire house with the most incredible rich, mushroomy, perfume. Very different from porcini or other dried mushrooms I have known. Richer, darker and....well, blacker.
Once soaked, I quickly sauteed the ever-blacker mushrooms in a pan, with shallots and a bit of butter and oil. I added them to the drained beans along with some of the bean cooking water and mushroom soaking broth. After about an hour of cooking, I just mashed the whole think up, adding a cup of milk, into a rich and incredibly creamy soup.
The beans by this time had lost any rosiness they ever had, turning what I can only call brown. And the mushrooms added to that darkness, adding flecks of pure black.
It tasted amazing. The beans providing the earthy base for the strong, exotic mushrooms.
And the color thing? Brown/black soup isn’t the most appetizing dish in the world. So, yes, I brought out the parsley. But I also decided to bring out the incredibly cute cow-decorated plates from Vietri. That made me very happy. As did the soup.
Mushroom and Bean Soup
30 grams of dried “Trompette del la Mort”*
2 cups dried cranberry beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper
parsley or chives for garnish
*If you can’t find tropettes del la mort, try this soup with another type of dried mushroom, like porcini or shitake. Let me know how it turns out.
If you have time, soak the beans for at least six hours and then boil them until tender. Otherwise you can just cook them in salted water, as I did. It just may take a bit longer.
When done, drain the beans and reserve the cooking water.
Bring 2 cups of water to boil. Turn off heat and add mushrooms. Let soak for 20 minutes, until softened. Gently scoop up the mushrooms, leaving any grit behind. Reserve liquid, pouring it through a coffee filter to remove any grit.
In a frying pan, put olive oil and butter and heat over medium flame. Add shallots, salt and pepper and cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the drained mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes, over low heat.
In a stock pot large enough to hold everything add the beans, mushrooms, bean soaking water, mushroom soaking water and salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a simmer. The liquid should come up about an inch over the beans. If not, add a bit of water. Let simmer for about an hour.
Add a cup of milk, stir and using an immersible blender, blend until beans have become a puree. There will be bits of mushrooms, which is ok.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Ladle into the cutest bowls you have and garnish with parsley or chives.