Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup

This year is definitely one of those roller-coaster years with lots of ups and downs. The day after I did my previous post, Arthur had a major setback in his separation anxiety training so we had to start somewhat from the beginning all over again, then Porgy had a horrible sore throat for 2 weeks and now I have cold with major sore throat (possibly strep throat) combo and lost my voice since Christmas eve.

While I was resting over the Christmas weekend, I saw an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they shared a tip on how to make a delicious & hearty Tuscan Bean soup without having the beans fall apart at the end. (The secret is to brine the beans with salt water for overnight, rinse them well, cook them without salt over low heat in a 250F oven for a couple of hours!) I thought that it’s an appropriate dish to make since it’s been cold and rainy in the past few days in San Francisco and that it would make my throat feel somewhat better. Since I'm not a member of America's Test Kitchen, I followed a similar recipe that's available at

1 lb dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over (I used red kidney beans instead)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used Merquez - spicy Moroccan style lamb sausage)
1 large onion, chopped medium
2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 bay leaves
1 bunch of kale, stems trimmed and leaves chopped into medium-sized pieces
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 250F.
  • Add 1/4 cup of salt to 4 qt water and stir until dissolved. Add the picked over, rinsed beans and leave them to soak overnight at room temperature.
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot and add the sausage (or pancetta/bacon) and cook 6-10 minutes, until the edges are crisp and browned. Remove the sausages.
  • In the same pan, add onion, celery and carrots and cook until very soft and a little browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes.
  • Drain water from beans and discard. Rinse well and add beans to the pot. Add broth, water and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to a preheated 250°F oven and cook for 60 minutes.
  • Add kale, tomatoes and sausages to the pot. Re-cover and cook until beans are tender, about another 30 minutes.
  • Add rosemary sprig and submerge it in the soup. Let stand off heat for 15 minutes, then remove and discard rosemary and bay leaves.
  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with a nice pain epi or sliced baguette.

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