This is one of my favorite soups to make and eat: Crunchy, slightly sweet leeks with tender cannellini beans swimming in a highly fragrant broth with just enough couscous for added texture and heartiness. It’s a wonderful departure from many creamy soups that we tend to have during the winter months and a fabulous way to get some potassium and Vitamin C into your diet. I can’t remember which magazine gave me the original idea several years ago (Self or Shape or something like that), but it was incredibly good! Sadly, I tossed the magazine without tearing out the recipe and had to work from my palate’s memory to recreate it and think my version is just as good, not to mention easy to prepare.
If you’re a fan of cumin, you are going to love this recipe! The smokiness of this spice lends a delicious aroma to the flavorful broth, bringing out the flavor of the cannellini and complementing the leeks in an unexpected way. The measurements may seem like a lot but this is not supposed to be a bland soup. This is fragrant, flavorful, and very bold. A couple of other things to note: Resist the urge to cut corners and use a vegetable broth instead of water. I did it once and it completely changed (and ruined) the flavor of the soup. It’s best to let the spices, garlic, and onions do their own thing. Be sure to choose the largest, most gorgeous leek you can, with plenty of dark green tops – the leek is the visual “star” of this show. Though this recipe calls for dried cannellini beans that you’ll need to soak overnight, canned cannellini will work fine in a pinch. You’ll just need to toss them in towards the end to avoid ending up with mush. Lastly, though I prefer whole wheat couscous in general, it’s not always easy to find. Any good quality couscous will work okay.
PS – This soup also freezes well, so be sure to save & freeze some of the leftovers to eat on a different day.
Soak the cannellini beans overnight. On cooking day, cook the beans in a crockpot or on the stove for about 45 minutes or until al dente but slightly tender. Do not overcook it! They will soften more once you add them to the broth.
In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and white part of the leeks and sautee for about 1 minute, then add the salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper and sautee for another minute. Next, toss in the cooked beans. Add the water and bring to a low boil, then let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the beans are nice & tender. Check for flavors at this point and adjust seasonings accordingly (you may need more cumin; I usually do).
Add the chopped green tops of the leeks and let the soup simmer slowly for another 3 to 4 minutes. The leek greens should be tender but not overcooked to the point that they begin to turn brown. Turn off the heat and add the cup of couscous, stirring well. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes to allow the couscous to cook.