Tag Archives: cannellini beans

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

It’s been cold here, very cold; and there’s nothing more satisfying in winter than a warm bowl of soup. I typically make a soup at least once a week. One of my favorites is anything showcasing beans. They’re cheap, healthy and hardy. With very little forethought you can serve up a soup that will delight anyone lucky enough to dig into a bowl of it. Today let’s focus on cannellini bean soup. You can get a bag of these beans for a couple bucks, which will give you a far superior result (particularly for soups) than you will get with canned. Although soaking your beans overnight is a small extra step it will allow for a much creamier texture in the end; which is one of the hallmarks of a great bean soup.

You can approach this soup in several ways to adjust for personal preferences. For example you can use either vegetable or chicken stock. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is just how important it is to use homemade stock. We all use carton stock in a pinch, but your end result will be just that, and will taste like well, carton stock. No worries though, you won’t have a swat team coming through your windows if carton stock is all you have.

I also like near the end of simmering adding some kind of green. Here, you have many options such as spinach (fresh or frozen), kale, or Swiss chard. If you are using frozen make sure to thaw and wring out as much moisture as possible before adding it to your soup. If using kale or Swiss chard, make sure to remove the thick stems are they can be rather tough, and we want to retain some healthy green color in the end result.

As far as herbs go, you can use fresh or dried; rule of thumb being 3:1 ratio. In other words, 1 tablespoon fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried.

HARDY CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water 2 inches over the level of the beans. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to water.
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup white vermouth (the alcohol will cook out once it’s evaporated)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (homemade preferred)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soak 2 cups dried cannellini beans overnight, covering the beans with 2 inches of water and adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Drain the next day and place in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a tightly fitting lid. Cover them with 3 inches of water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add 2 cloves of garlic lightly smashed, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover leaving a little space open for the lid and lower heat to medium-low. Cook beans for 40-60 minutes, or until soft. Drain beans and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, beans, tomato paste, potatoes, rosemary, thyme and paprika. Cook stirring frequently, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the vermouth, stir well and let it simmer until it has evaporated, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add stock of your choice, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, and the soup is thick and creamy, add the greens of your choice. Stir to wilt the greens, yet keeping their color and some texture.
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need additional salt, depending on your personal preferences.
  7. Ladle into bowls, and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 6-8

“Beans have a soul.” –Pythagoras

Beyond Lettuce

When we elect to stay home as much as possible and self-shelter during this pandemic, how we have prepared can really make a difference. I really notice this during the winter as well. When it comes to salads, we need to think outside the box and get creative. For example, when Val and I were walking the dogs the other day on our farm, we came across a row of overgrown arugula. Rather than going to flower, it was still sending up small new leaves. They weren’t as tender as during the summer months, but they were still quite viable; more like field spinach. We picked about 12 cups of the stuff, and it’s working rather well in all sorts of dishes. Add this to dry cooked or canned beans and shredded carrots and you’ve got yourself a delicious healthy salad. No arugula, try spinach or kale. Both chickpeas and cannellini beans work, and most of us have olives, lemon juice and olive oil.

Having sturdy root vegetables on hand is also another way to get some ‘fresh’ in during winter. I go to the store about every 6 weeks, and when it comes to fresh vegetables it is as follows: potatoes, beets, peppers, carrots, cabbage, oranges and cherry tomatoes. Root vegetables are excellent, and the peppers and cherry tomatoes are throw in all sorts of recipes until their gone. I never buy lettuce in the winter! Most times it has been traumatized during transit and goes south in a matter of days. This is the seasonal time for citrus, so that can be a welcome addition.

BEAN SALAD WITH CARROTS, ARUGULA AND OLIVES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 carrots, peeled and shredded on large holes of box grater
  • 1 small red onion, vertically sliced
  • 2 cup arugula, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place beans in a microwave safe bowl. Mix together your olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Heat beans on high for 2 minutes; then pour dressing over warm beans. This will allow them to absorb the dressing and make them more flavorful. Let sit for 20-30 minutes
  2. Add carrots, arugula and olives; toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper.

“Winter forms our character and brings out our best.” —Tim Allen

Basic Comfort

As we dive into our pantry’s and larder’s, there are few things more affordable than beans. I always have assorted cans on hand for dinners that come together quickly. But when it comes to a texture and flavor difference, I can’t recommend enough, using dried beans. My goodness, could anything be more pantry stable and down right cheap? As many of us are home more than usual due to the pandemic, this is the perfect time to simmer up a pot of these amazing nuggets.

There are four dried beans that I always have on hand, both for their versatility and flavor: cannellini, chickpeas, dark red kidneys, and black. You can create beautiful soups, stews, salads and braises. It is not difficult to cook dried beans; it’s really a matter of time. Although I own an Instant Pot, I prefer to cook beans on the stove. I find that electric pressure cookers give you a lack of control. The beans tend to split and rupture their skins when cooked in a pressure cooker. The beauty of controlling the simmer and cooking time is they will be just right for your application. The only thing you really need to plan is soaking them overnight.

A pot on cannellini’s ready for the stove.

Sometimes you will cook beans to add to your recipe; other times they are part of the recipe and are cooked with your meat. There are a few nuances that I suggest when cooking beans. The most important one is don’t salt your beans while they are cooking. Salt makes the skins tough and doesn’t allow the bean to become soft. Once your beans are cooked to the texture required for your recipe, then feel free to add salt. Beans require salt! I also like to add a few cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, but this is an option, not a requirement. There is such a thing as the pot liqueur or the bean cooking liquid. When I cooked beans for this stew, I dished up a cup of the beans, pot liqueur and topped it with homemade basil oil. I literally swooned!

The following stew is a great way to use cooked cannellini beans. You can use either bulk Italian sausage or link. If you use links, you will simply remove their casings before cooking. The spinach adds a nice texture and color. If you don’t have spinach, you can use Swiss chard or ribboned kale or leave it out completely. The stew will still taste great!!

ITALIAN STEW WITH CANNELLINI AND SAUSAGE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans
  • 3 cloves garlic and 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finally cubed
  • 1 pound bulk/or 5 links, Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1/4 inch
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE BEANS:

  1. Soak your 2 cups of beans overnight. Cover them with about 4 inches of water.
  2. Drain your beans and place in a Dutch oven of enamel covered cast iron pot and cover with water about 2 inches. Add garlic and bay leaf if using. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook 45-90 minutes until soft. Once soft, add 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and simmer 15 minutes more. Drain and separate beans in half. You will puree one half to thicken stew.
Italian sausage and pancetta

FOR STEW:

  1. If using links, take the sausage meat out of its casings and crumble it into a large soup pot, along with the pancetta.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients.
  3. Transfer the sausage and pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot (spoon any excess out).
  4. Add the onion to the pot and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Add the beans, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and rosemary. Stir thoroughly and dissolve any browned bits in the bottom of pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. With an immersion blender, (I use a quart Mason jar) puree the remaining half of cooked beans until smooth. Add them back to the pot, along with the sausage and pancetta. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove stew from heat and stir in the baby spinach. The spinach will wilt in about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Ready to serve
Savory Italian bean and sausage stew.

” A stew sustains you against the hungers of the world.”