Purple-skinned carrots freshly harvested from our winter garden, delicious and beautiful as they are, turned the broth and everything in it a lovely but unexpected lavender shade. The description on the seed package may have been a bit of an understatement, as about 3/8" of the flesh beyond the skin was this lovely intense bright violet. A little research confirmed my guess that these colorful carrots pack a phytochemical punch (those pigment-based bioactive compounds that are known to protect against disease) much greater then the usual orange-alone variety.
My Vivid Mirepoix
This recipe was adapted from David Tanis' Zuppa de Fagioli in his lovely cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. Mr. Tanis' minimal approach is entirely enticing, and his book is beautiful. He may not necessarily nod to the violet quality of this knock-off version of his soup, but I believe he'd heartily approve of some other of my additions and changes.
Enormous butter beans, for instance, replaced his smaller white beans. I added some chard, thyme and rosemary from the garden and used about twice as much garlic as originally called for.
Inspired by our freezer full of local lamb, a browned a lamb shank was dropped into the soup pot, replacing Mr. Tanis' smoked ham hocks. In the end, the marrow was scooped from the bone and whisked into the broth, adding a silky texture and additional flavor. The small amount of meat made the soup a bit heartier for a chilly autumn afternoon in the northwest, but still let the vegetables and beans take the lead.
The rousing licorice-y aroma of the fennel crushing in the mortar had me humming La Donna e Mobile under my breath. With garlic bread and a nice bottle of Dolcetto, once again we could have been in the Italian countryside.
Warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions, celery and carrots and cook gently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves and chopped chard stems and cook for a minute more.