This recipe is courtesy of Jason Koppinger, Executive Chef at the Westin, Grand Cayman Islands. Chef Koppinger makes his soup with roasted chicken stock.
1 lb. dried cannellini beans
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
1 yellow onion, quartered lengthwise
1 celery stalk, quartered crosswise
1 carrot, quartered crosswise
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
Finely ground gray sea salt
6 slices country-style bread, each 3/4-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely ground gray sea salt
Soup and Topping
2 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 heads escarole, finely shredded
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Make the beans: Rinse beans, place in a saucepan, and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from the heat. Let stand for about 20 minutes, then drain.
2. Return the beans to the saucepan along with prosciutto, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf. Pour in the chicken stock and add water as needed to cover beans by 2 inches. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. (If you heat them too fast, the skins may break.) Adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are almost tender, 20 minutes or longer, depending on the age of the beans. Add salt to taste, and continue cooking until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let the beans cool in the liquid.
3. Meanwhile, make the bruschetta: Preheat a stove-top grill pan. Place the bread slices in a single layer on the grill pan and toast until each side is crisp and has grill marks, about 6 minutes. (You can also toast the bread in a 500°F oven on a baking sheet.) Remove from the pan and lightly brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil, then season lightly with salt. Let cool.
4. Finish the soup: Drain the cooled beans and other solids through a sieve, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, puree the beans and solids in batches with 3 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, push the solids through a fine mesh sieve into a clean large saucepan (you should have about 6 cups of soup in the saucepan). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
5. In a large skillet over high heat, warm the 1/4 cup olive oil. Turn on the fan above your stove. Add the garlic and escarole to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn brown. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for a few seconds, then add the basil. Cook until basil wilts.
6. To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls. Top the soup with the basil mixture. Serve bruschetta with each bowl, adding Parmesan, if desired