White bean soup with garlic is a classic comfort dish in the Mediterranean region.

Usually, it's loaded with heavy cream, which also loads up the fat and calories. My version uses no cream at all, getting its body from adding extra garlic plus a lone starchy potato, and then blending most of the soup itself up into a luscious creamy consistency. (A few of the beans are reserved and added back in after blending for texture.)

What I love about this soup is that it takes under a half hour to make from start to finish, and I usually have the needed ingredients on hand — a couple of cans of beans, a potato, some herbs, stock and a little white wine, which I've been known to skip without catastrophe when I don't happen to have it on hand.

With white beans being so full of protein and fiber — 1 cup of beans has about 20 grams of protein and over 12 grams of fiber yet almost no fat — this meatless soup is filling without making you feel stuffed.

Serve it with a green salad with a tart Dijon and lemon vinaigrette for a typical Sunday supper that my husband grew up eating in Provence. Or, serve a half portion as a first course, and you'll eat less at your main meal, which means you can stretch your meat budget in a sneaky and healthy way.

Or simply make this soup because it's super easy and comforting — easing us from cold weather to warmer weather perfectly. A final note: don't let the garlic quantities intimidate you. Boiling the garlic tames the flavor and you'll be left with a mellow, slightly sweet complement to the creamy beans.

CFREAMLESS WHITE BEAN AND GARLIC SOUP

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small chopped onion, about 1 cup

1 stalk celery, chopped, about 1/3 cup

1 medium carrot, chopped, about 1/3 cup

1/2 teaspoon smoked (or sweet) paprika

20 medium cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into quarters

2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

1 large sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

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1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and sweat the onion, celery and carrot over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.

Add the smoked paprika, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine and stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the potato, beans, herbs, bay leaf, and 2 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil and let simmer, partially covered with a lid, over medium low heat until potato and garlic are very tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes (add a couple of ice cubes to expedite cooling). Spoon out the herb stems and bay leaf and discard.

Scoop out about a cup of beans and set aside. Use an immersion blender to blend the rest of the soup until creamy. Or, blend in a traditional blender, being very careful not to get burned — blend in batches and remove the lid center, cover with a dishrag, to allow steam to escape.

Add the reserved beans back to the blended soup, adjust for seasoning, and serve.

Cook's Note: Traditionally, the herbs are tied up with kitchen string or placed in a cheesecloth pouch, called a "bouquet garni." But fishing out the stems and allowing a few errant leaves to be blended up in the soup works quite fine for a quick weeknight soup.)

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Nutrition information per serving: 181 calories; 14 calories from fat; 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 586 mg sodium; 32 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 10 g protein.

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