Friday, February 4, 2011

Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup

Kale and cannellini beans are a great match. The creamy beans balance the mild bitterness of the kale; and the two contrasting colors - light and dark - make for a visually attractive combination. This hearty soup, based on a Tuscan soup called Ribollita, makes a delicious one-dish meal.

A little advanced planning is needed if you want to start with dried cannellini beans, but the enhanced flavor is worth the extra effort. Canned cannellini beans are a fine, time-saving alternative. Once you've prepared the beans, the soup is a cinch to make.

To start with dried beans: Place 1 C dried cannellini beans in a pot large enough to cover the beans with 3 inches of cold water. That's 3 inches over the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Then drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add 5 C water, 1/2 C chopped onion, 2 whole garlic cloves (peeled), 1 bay leaf, and 1/2 T salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, maybe a little longer. Drain the beans, but keep the cooking liquid.

For the soup:
1 T olive oil
1/2 C chopped onion
2 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 C chopped celery
1 C chopped carrots
2-3 C cooked cannellini beans
3 C cooking liquid from the cannellini beans or stock
1 C canned diced Italian tomatoes in juice
1 bay leaf
1 t dried oregano
2-3 C chopped kale
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.

2. Add the celery and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes.

3. Add the cannellini beans, cooking liquid or stock, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and kale. Simmer partially covered, stirring occassionally, for about 30 minutes or until the soup thickens.

4. Add the cheese and stir until melted and mixed well into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a grainy bread.

I like to smash some of the cannellini beans when stirring to thicken the soup. Omnivores might like to add some crumbled Italian sausage, but it's plenty hearty without meat.

Here's what this week's harvest brought us:

Young radish and chard micro-greens from Silver Lake Farms
Satsuma mandarins and Mexican white guavas from Rancho Santa Cecilia
And from Underwood Family Farms: celery, iceberg lettuce, purple kale, white carrots, leeks, French radishes. golden beets, Japanese turnips, and butternut squash.



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