Sometimes you realize just how much better life is when you share it with someone else. Shopping is much more fun with a friend. Dancing is better with a partner. Studying is more productive with a motivated classmate. And, I might add, driving from point A to point B in icy conditions is much, much safer because I have a sweet husband who is willing to also be a perpetual driver.
For the past few years, each January, my husband and I have decided to subject ourselves to a "detox" fast of sorts. My in-laws call it the "Nuts and Berries" diet (I wonder if they are discretely calling us nuts); for a few weeks we cut out meat, refined sugar, butter, beer and wine, and processed foods in general. The result is that we have a great increase of fruits and vegetables in our diet; our insane sugar cravings (which have been piqued by all of the holiday sweets) subside as do those for rich, buttery foods; and we feel much better in general. Even as we add those eschewed ingredients back into our diet in moderation, our eating habits continue to carry a healthy dose of those good fruits and vegetables whose appearances had dwindled during the holidays.
The thing is, while we both find ourselves craving this time of discipline after a few weeks of out of control eating, it's much more difficult to carry out after a week or two. A trip to the grocery (or even a glance in our pantry) leaves us gazing longingly at blocks of cheese, bottles of wine, or bags of chocolate rather than our intended destination of dried fruit or raw vegetables. If either of us were to go at this alone, I have a feeling we wouldn't make it an entire month. But we encourage one another and hold each other accountable. And we both look forward to the day that we "break our fast" together.
This white bean soup may just be my favorite recipe from our January detox ritual; it has even made appearances in our regular menu planning! It is fresh and flavorful, perfect for a healthy lunch or dinner.
Tuscan White Bean Soup
Adapted from Care2
1 pound white navy beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and tender green parts, cleaned well and chopped
1/2 onion, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups water
5 teaspoons vegetable base (such as Better than Bouillon brand), or bouillon cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
minced fresh rosemary, lemon wedges, and grated fresh parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Sort the beans and place them in a medium heavy pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by two inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans; set aside.
In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes more, stirring often. Add the beans and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the vegetable base, rosemary, and pepper, and cook for 40 minutes more, until the beans are soft.
Carefully transfer 3 cups of the soup to a blender. Puree and return to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle each bowl with a pinch of extra rosemary and Parmesan cheese if desired, and serve with a lemon wedge.