Tag Archives: White Beans

Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup

3 bowls 2We’re not really a big game-playing family. The one and only time I ever played a board game with my husband was early on in our relationship. We were on the same team for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit. The category was sports and leisure and it was a baseball question, the only sport I know anything about. I got so excited that I knew the answer, I shouted it out. Unfortunately, it was the other team’s question. My husband declared a moratorium on game playing with me after that.

But, on a visit to see us in December, my youngest son started a game of tag, and it’s still going on. Sadly, he was playing tag with a wicked cold. He caught it first, passed it on to my husband, and now I am “it”, sneezing and coughing my way through January. Normally, when I’m sick, I lose my appetite, so I sort of got excited about being sick at the beginning of January. I figured this would be the perfect way to lose my December cookie weight. But this cold left me feeling ravenous. I couldn’t seem to eat enough to make me feel satisfied. I was craving carbs.one bowl 45°Soup seemed like the perfect remedy. Hot enough to soothe my sore throat and packed with lots of starchy things to make me feel full. This is my take on the classic Tuscan soup, Minestra di Faro Lucchese. (Farro soup in the style of Lucca). I used Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe as my starting point and adapted slightly from there. mise en place I added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste to the sauteed onions and celery, to really deepen the flavour of this soup. I also slipped in a big pinch of red pepper flakes. While spicy heat is not a typical addition to the classic recipe, my tastebuds were so dulled by my cold that I wanted the soup to really pack a punch of flavour. Plus, spicy food makes my nose run, so I figured that the soup would work to cleanse my sinuses. The final adaptation I made was the addition of a rind of Parmesan cheese to the simmering soup. I always save my rinds and keep them in the freezer in a zip-loc bag to add to soups and stews. serving soupThis soup does not fall under the “fast food” category. You need to soak the beans the night before. You could use canned beans, but I think that the texture would not be the same. The original recipe called for adding the farro and beans at the same time. I found that the beans needed at least 90 minutes of simmering to get tender, so I added the farro during the last 30 minutes of cooking, so that it would still retain some chew, the way I like it. I also waited and added the carrots at the end of the cooking time, rather than at the beginning with the celery and onions, so that they would not be too mushy.

Serve with lots of chopped Italian parsley and fresh basil for a hit of verdant freshness. Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese.

Click here to print recipe for Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup.

1 bowl on grey napkin


Kale, Chicken Sausage and White Bean Soup

ready to eat 2 625 sqIf you keep up on these things, you may know that one of the hottest “it” foods in 2013 was kale. I realize that we are already a month into 2014 now, so forgive me if I’m just a little late to the party.

Dubbed the “Queen of Greens”, Kale has a ton of health benefits. Low in calories, high in fibre and anti-oxidant rich, kale contains calcium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. Research shows it helps fight age-related diseases too!

Last year I read about The Kale Effect  (TKE). Defined as an “immediate, and observable, autonomic nervous system response to the absorption of the vitamins and minerals in nutrient rich kale.  Symptoms may include uncontrollable smiling, laughing, and jumping up and down in the kitchen.”

I wanted in on “The Kale Effect” in the worst way possible. I mean who wouldn’t? I suspected the only way kale was going to make me laugh uncontrollably was if I chopped it finely, rolled it in paper and smoked it. But I was game to give kale a chance.

I spent quite a bit of time last year trying to like kale. Everyone gushed about kale chips. They said that eating these would make any craving for potato chips vanish. They said that kale chips were just as satisfying as potato chips. They were wrong! Kale chips taste like crispy seaweed that turns to dust in your mouth.

Then I moved onto raw chopped kale in a salad with apples and walnuts. Swallowing that raw kale felt like someone was trying to scratch the inside of my throat.  Then I heard that you should massage your kale first, before eating it. Apparently massaging it breaks down the cellulose structure and raw kale goes from bitter and tough to silky and sweet. I never did try the rubdown. I have my limits. I mean, good lord, what’s next, a mani and pedi for your Brussels sprouts?

I worked my way through kale and onion pie, sautéed kale with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, stir fried kale, smoked kale and braised kale with cabbage and balsamic vinegar. None of these were terribly awful (except for the smoked kale), but I certainly did not want to make any of them for a second time.

But damn, I wanted to get in on The Kale Effect. When would I begin smiling and laughing uncontrollably? It seems that the key to kale love, for me, was to combine it with lots of other ingredients so that it became filler and not the star of the show. That way you have lots of other delicious ingredients and still get all the benefits of kale.

The two main types of kale you are likely to encounter in the grocery store are curly kale, which is quite pungent, dinosaur or black kale, (also called calvolo nero) which is sweet and delicate in flavour.
curly-kale 2Fdinosaur kaleFTry this kale soup and soon, you too, may begin smiling and laughing uncontrollably and jumping up and down in your kitchen!prepI adapted a similar recipe for Sausage and Kale Soup with Black Eyed Peas from Serious Eats. I decided to lighten mine up a bit and I used spicy chicken sausages instead of traditional pork sausages. I also opted for canned white beans instead of soaking my own black eyed peas.sauteeing chicken sausagesimmering soupThe chopped kale gets added during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Just enough time to wilt and soften it. Before the kale is added, about a quarter of the soup is pureed in the blenderblenderThe finished soup gets a final garnish of freshly grated lemon zest, chopped fresh rosemary and a shaving of Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

I loved this soup. The spicy chicken sausage packed just the right amount of heat to keep this soup from being bland. Pureeing just a quarter of the soup created an amazing thick and comforting texture. The bitter kale, added right at the end, had just enough time to mellow slightly, while still retaining some texture. Lemon zest as a garnish added just the right extra hit of freshness and brightness. I am a kale convert.cropped bowl 1 625

Click here to print recipe for Sausage White Bean and Kale Soup.

P.S. Duking it out for super fruit of 2014 is the buffaloberry and the pichuberry. You heard it here first folks!!