Friday, October 31, 2008

White Bean, Bacon, and Spinach Soup

And now, as promised, a hearty and healthy fall soup. I love soups for a variety of reasons; they are a simple, filling, flavorful meal that can be made healthy without losing flavor and comfort. Healthy in this case can mean low-fat, low-carb, high-fiber, and high-protein; it is so easy to incorporate legumes and vegetables that you almost don't notice it (although I would not have agreed with that statement as a child...).

This white-bean soup is a riff on the America's Test Kitchen cannellini bean soup recipe; I replaced the bacon with turkey bacon but doubled the amount, reduced the chicken stock to make it heartier, replaced the dried beans with canned beans to speed up the process, and added spinach to up the veggie count. The turkey bacon gives it a wonderful smokiness, and the beans and veggies make it so filling that you don't need cream to fill it out. Note: fiber in the beans, onions, and spinach, protein in the beans and bacon, low-fat, and all sorts of health benefits from the legumes, spinach, and even the garlic.

It's easy to have most of these ingredients in your kitchen at any given moment, so stock up on your next trip to the store and make this when you're at a loss for a simple good meal.

White Bean, Bacon, and Spinach Soup

16 oz. turkey bacon (one package)
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
4 C chicken stock
2 cans white beans (also called cannellini beans)
2 C fresh baby spinach leaves (or more if you like!)

1. Cut the turkey bacon into strips that you'll sprinkle on top later; brown it until crisp in a dutch oven pot. Place the turkey bacon on paper towels and leave any remaining grease in the pot.
2. Dice the onion and sauté it in the pot. Add a tablespoon of olive oil if the onion is sticking to the pot. When the onion is soft, throw the whole cloves of garlic into the pot (with the loose outside skin removed) for 30 seconds.
3. Add the chicken stock and beans and simmer covered for 10-20 minutes until beans are heated and flavorful.
4. Scoop the garlic out of the soup, crush each clove with the flat of a chef knife, remove the clove skin, and finely chop the garlic meat. Return the chopped garlic to the pot.
5. Add the spinach to the pot and continue cooking over medium heat until the spinach has withered and reduced.
6. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with turkey bacon strips on top.

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