Before we get started here, I'd like to ask that you consider the soup I'm about to share—soup no. 2, Escarole Soup With Rice—with an open mind. Because I fear that you're biased against it. I fear that by confessing in my last post that this soup, soup no. 2, would probably lose in a soup deathmatch to soup no. 1, Asparagus, Pancetta, and Rice Soup, you've already decided you'll never make it. Which, to be frank, is terribly judgmental of you. And while it's fine to be judgmental of teabaggers and hipsters in skinny jeans and books based on their covers, let us not judge food before we've tasted it, shall we, bitches?
Or shall we?
A confession: I judged this soup as soon as I read the recipe. For starters, I'd just spent nearly a week eating soup no. 1, which is so tasty I was sure this one couldn't compare. And the spring vegetable featured in this soup is escarole, which is basically bitter lettuce,
whereas the spring vegetable in soup no. 1 is asparagus, which is basically delicious. Also, the asparagus soup contains pancetta, and it's pretty hard to top pancetta, unless you are topping it with bacon, and there is no bacon in soup no. 2.
But it turns out soup no. 2 has its own secret weapon: toasted garlic.
And it turns out the escarole sweetens as it cooks, so the finished dish isn't full of bitter lettuce, it's swimming with tender ribbons of greens. This soup's only flaw may actually be aesthetic—the escarole is delicious after it's been sautéed with the onions and braised in the broth, but its color turns to army green.
Overall, soups no. 1 and 2 are very similar: broth is host to some rice, a spring vegetable, and a secret weapon, and both soups are enhanced by a good dose of Parmesan. And they're both easily modified, either to look more like each other, or something else entirely: use pancetta here; enhance the asparagus soup with toasted garlic; substitute the white for brown rice; add bacon. No, seriously: Why not add some bacon?
Escarole Soup With Rice
From the New York Times
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely minced, plus 4 or 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped onions [I used one medium yellow onion.]
4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about one head) [my head of escarole yielded more than 4 cups, closer to 6 or 8, so I upped the quantities of everything else.]
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water [I used a combination of Imagine No-Chicken Broth and my favorite bouillon, for a total of about 8 or 9 cups]
¼ cup short-grain white rice, like arborio [I closer to ½ cup of arborio, but I think any white rice would do.]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add onions and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 more minutes [I went closer to 10]. Add escarole and cook, tossing gently, until it begins to wilt, about another 3 minutes.
2. Add stock and rice to the pan, bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
3. Meanwhile, put remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet. When oil is hot, add sliced garlic and cook over medium-low heat until it turns golden brown and begins to crisp. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.
4. When rice is cooked through, season soup with salt and pepper, top with a grating of Parmesan and garnish with garlic slivers. [I added plenty of Parm and ended up crumbling the garlic slivers into the soup.]