(Greek Bean Soup)
A magnificent Greek soup, brimming with color, redolent of thyme and oregano, nice to the bite. And it's drop dead sensational with crusty bread, feta cheese, and olives on the side, washed down with a strong red wine. Old saying: "Fasolatha pou trefi tin Ellada," or "the whole of Greece is brought up on bean soup." You could swear you were on a white beach, lapped by the wine dark sea. For a terrific variation called Fassolátha me Spanáki, stir in 8-ounces of spinach leaves, sliced into paper-thin ribbons, with the tomatoes. Serve hot as a meal to 6 people.
Garnish: balsamico vinegar
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Discard water (to reduce flatulence), then place drained beans in a saucepan with plenty more cold water and slowly bring to a boil. When at a boil, drain, rinse, and set aside.
In a big soup pot, heat 1/3 cup oil, then stir in the onion, carrot, and chopped celery. Sauté on low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden. Stir in the celery leaves, garlic, thyme and oregano crushed between your palms, 1/2 cup parsley, pepper, beans and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour--until the beans are soft but not falling apart. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt and let sit for 15 minutes, while soup continues cooking.
Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste [and spinach, if you're using], and let simmer another 10 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in the parsley and olive oil and ladle into bowls. Dribble a spoonful of balsamico vinegar over each portion.