I think this is by far one of the most complicated recipes I've made since cooking on my own. The most daunting meal I've ever made was making my first turkey for Thanksgiving! That was just an odd experience, but it was well worth the fuss and muss. This is what that recipe was all about. Time. It took a long time and careful watching, but gosh it was worth it!
It's so nice to make pretty much every layer of a meal homemade. Of course I can't conjure up shrimp on my own, but the soup and croutons were all me. That makes me proud. Someone award me a gold star!
The soup was delicious and creamy. It was perfectly seasoned, even though I didn't have a cheesecloth to bundle my herbs and I used dried instead of fresh. The shrimp although I can only use frozen here (landlocked = lack of fresh seafood) was juicy and succulent. The garlic croutons were full of flavor, crispy yet chewy. Ahhhh I could live off those croutons! I'll never buy stuff from the store again! :)
If you cannot find dry cannellini beans you can use either white navy beans or great northern beans.
from Fine Cooking Magazine, January 2004
1 1/2 cup dried cannellini beans, sorted through and rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 to 3 sprigs fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, and flat-leaf parsley)
1 tsp. kosher salt
Wrap the bay leaves, garlic, and herbs in cheesecloth and tie with twine. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches (about 2 quarts). Add the herb bundle and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are tender (try biting into one) but not splitting and falling apart, 1 to 2 hours depending on the type of bean (check occasionally to be sure the beans aren't boiling and are covered with liquid; add water if needed).
Discard the herb bundle. Add the beans and their cooking liquid immediately to the soup recipe, or let the beans cool in liquid and refrigerate for up to three days.
White Bean Soup with Sautéed Shrimp & Garlic Croutons
from Fine Cooking Magazine, January 2004
Cooked cannellini beans
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; plus 1 tbsp. for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 inner rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
2 1/2 cups 3/4-inch diced country bread or baguette (about 6 ounces)
3/4lb. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed, and patted dry
Cook the cannellini beans following the Basic Beans method above.
Heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. of the oil, along with the onion, carrot, and celery. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and start to brown, about 7 minutes. Add half the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
Add the beans and their cooking liquid (there should be about 4 cups liquid; if not, add more water to equal this amount) and half the rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a bare simmer, and cook for 30 minutes so that the beans soften a little more but don't break up.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the beans and set aside. Working in batches, puree the remaining beans and all of the broth in a blender. Transfer the pureed soup and the reserved beans to a clean saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with water, if necessary, to get the consistency you like.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and the bread cubes and season well with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until the bread starts to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Toss in the remaining garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute, tossing well. Transfer to a large plate.
Season the shrimp well with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the shrimp to the skillet and saute, stirring often, until the shrimp is firm, pink, and slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Ladle the soup in large, shallow bowls and dust with a pinch of cayenne. Garnish with a few croutons, a portion of the shrimp, a sprinkling of the remaining rosemary, and a drizzle of oil.
Recipe says it serves 4, but could easily serve 6.
Weight Watchers Points (per serving, serving 6): 10 points