This past fall came and went quickly, with a whirlwind of events and now we will soon finally be seeing the last of T….! In the midst of all of the commotion and noise, we discovered yet another place of great beauty and tranquility where we can decompress and catch our breath; the Drury Preserve in nearby Sheffield, Massachusetts.
The Nature Conservancy opened the preserve in 1997 and it consists of a gentle three mile loop that traverses through marshland, woods and a bucolic pond with views of Mount Race.
Returning several times in October and November, I was drawn into the gradual transition from the beginning to the end of fall. Each time I visited, I felt my breath slowing down as I observed the subtle changes occurring around me. The combination of the light reflecting on the water and the delicate leaves made me think of Japanese prints.
One chilly November morning, I pre-soaked a few cups of white beans and we set out on a walk to the Drury Preserve. When we returned home, I drained and rinsed the beans and in large heavy pot, sauteed an onion, added the beans, a sprig of rosemary, diced carrot and celery, a small can of diced tomatoes, bay leaf and dried thyme. In the back of my cheese drawer, I found an old parmesan cheese rind from DiPalo’s in NYC. This adds another layer of flavor and depth to the soup! I covered everything with cold water, brought the liquid to a boil and then reduced the heat to a slow simmer for a few hours until the beans started to soften. I added a head of ecscarole torn into small pieces, mashed a few beans with a wooden spoon, added salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and cooked the beans about an hour more until the mixture was creamy and a bit thickened. If you have orzo or pasta on hand, you can cook this up and add it to the soup before you plan to eat it. I served the soup with freshly ground pepper and grated pecorino romano cheese on top. The two sharp flavors reminded me of the simple but delicious Italian dish, Cacio-e-pepe; basically pecorino cheese and black pepper on pasta! I will plan on making this dish soon!
Wistfully, I thought about how much I miss going to DiPalo’s in Little Italy; people watching and listening to conversations about what the other customers were planning to buy and cook and best of all, getting free tastes of delicious cheese from the generous owners Lou and Sal DiPalo. Once when I handed over my credit card, Lou DiPalo looked down at the name and proudly announced, “We’ve got a DePaolo here”! When the pandemic is over, I made a pledge to myself to never complain about waiting in a long line to be served!
White Bean and Escarole Soup with Orzo
2 cups dried white beans
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1 carrot diced
1 stalk celery diced
1/2 small can diced tomatoes
1 head escarole torn into small pieces
piece of parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper
salt* see note
grated pecorino romano cheese
To Make Soup:
Soak beans- either overnight or using the quick soak method.
Overnight- cover beans with cold water.
Quick Soak- cover beans with cold water, bring to a boil and then turn off heat. Cover and let sit for a few hours.
Drain and rinse beans.
Add beans and other ingredients, except escarole, salt and orzo to a large pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer Cook for a few hours until beans start to soften. Mash a bit of the beans with a wooden spoon to thicken the soup.
Add Escarole and cook at a simmer covered until beans are completely broken down and the soup has a thick velvety texture.
Cook a cup or so of orzo according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the soup.
Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pass around grated grated pecorino romano cheese
Add freshly ground pepper
Note: It is best to add salt after the soup is almost finished. The beans will toughen if salt is added to early in the cooking process.
AND- here is my Tree of the Week!
Please stay safe and warm!!