It’s just a couple of short weeks away from spring, but it still seems like an eternity. This winter has been a hard slog all around the U.S., not sure how it has been around the world. In my corner of the world, the Hudson Valley region of NY State, we are truly weary even though we’ve had it much easier than a lot of folks north of us and in the midwest. Right now it is pouring (I suppose that’s better than another snowstorm!), so I took a break from work a bit early to make some soup and cake, always a good antidote to these kind of gloomy, bone-chilling days.
Cooked cornmeal makes a delightfully dense soup base. Serve this meal-in-a-bowl with a bountiful salad and crusty bread.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic
6 cups water
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stoneground
One 16-ounce can small red beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes, plus more for topping if desired
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning blend
6 to 8 ounces Swiss chard or spinach, well washed, stemmed, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Handful of basil leaves, cut into strips
1/2 cup grated mozzarella-style nondairy cheese for topping, optional
Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat until golden.
Add 4 cups of the water and bring to a gentle simmer. Pour the cornmeal into the pot in a thin, steady stream, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly.
Stir in the beans, tomatoes, dried tomatoes, and seasoning. Cover and continue to simmer gently. Uncover to whisk well every 5 minutes or so, for 25 minutes, or until the cornmeal is cooked. Whisk in 1 cup of water with each of the last two stirrings.
Stir in the chard or spinach. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes for the chard and 3 to 5 minutes for the spinach, just until tender but still bright green. Adjust the consistency with more water if needed. The soup should be fairly thick, but thinner than a cornmeal porridge.
Season with salt and pepper and serve. Top each serving with a a few strips of basil, and if desired, a sprinkling of cheese, and a few extra strips of dried tomato.
Calories: 184; Total fat: 6 g; Protein: 6 g; Fiber: 7 g; Carbohydrate: 29 g; Sodium: 235 mg