Tuscan style White Bean and Kale stew

With going on the ‘South Beach Diet’ I have started to add a lot of beans and lentils to my diet. Beans and Legumes are a wonderful way to add protein to a vegetarian diet. I have also started soaking and bulk cooking my own beans, as opposed to buying canned beans, to avoid the addition of sodium into the diet. Not only that, cooking beans by yourself, is very cheap and healthy too. A pound of dried beans is normally equal to 2 cups dried. This when cooked yields 5 – 6 cups of cooked beans, which is approximately equal to 4 cans of beans. Therefore, by using cooked beans you are cutting down on one fourth of the cost as opposed to buying canned beans.

There are a few types of beans that I can get away without the pre-soak, by using my trusty pressure cooker. Thats what I have done here with Cannelini beans also labeled as Small white navy beans. They are creamy and hearty, providing a great addition to soups and stews such as this one.

How to make and freeze your own cooked beans
Soak a pound of beans in water overnight(I have done this with pinto beans, black beans and garbanzo beans). Or if using smaller variety of beans such as baby lima beans, cannelini beans, adzuki beans or mung beans you can get away without the soaking time, although soaking is recommended and reduces cooking time for all types of beans. Discard the soaking liquid and place in a pressure cooker. Cover with 3 times water. i.e for 1cup of dried beans, use 3 cups water and so on. Add a teaspoon of salt and cook for 3 whistles(if soaked) and 5 whistles(if unsoaked). This depends on your pressure cooker model. Err on the side of undercooking if doubtful. You can always cook it more, after checking, but take care not to make the beans mushy. If you have a slow cooker/crock pot, you can also use it for cooking your soaked beans. Set it on low for 6-8 hours and have fuss free beans.

Cool the cooked beans and measure out into 1 cup installments into freezer safe ziptop bags. Thaw and use as needed.

The cooking liquid of the beans is very good and tasty. Think of it like bean stock, similar to vegetable or chicken stock. Do not discard it. You can substitute half of the vegetable stock/chicken stock called for in a recipe with bean stock.

Substituting home-cooked beans for canned beans:
If a recipe calls for a 15 oz can of bean, use 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups of your cooked beans, along with the cooking liquid. If you want to soak and cook beans just enough to make a can of beans – soak 2/3 cup of dried beans and cook to yield the same amount as a can of beans.

Now on to the recipe…
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
3 cups of cooked cannelini beans or small white navy beans
1 bunch of curly kale, stripped off ribs, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 cups roughly chopped tomatoes(I used canned tomatoes)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground fennel
5 cups of vegetable stock(can substitute chicken or any other stock)
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, to grate over top before serving

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic. let cook until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook. You want the tomatoes to hold their shape in the soup, so don’t cook too much. Add the kale and let it wilt. Add the Italian seasoning, 2 cups of the cooked beans and 4 cups of the broth. Let it come to a boil and let simmer until kale is cooked through. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 cup of the cooked beans and half a cup of the broth in a blender and blend until you get a puree. Add the bean puree to the simmering soup to thicken the soup. Rinse the blender with the remaining broth and add. Sprinkle the fennel powder and let it simmer until it reaches thickness of desired consistency. Serve hot with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Verdict: This was a hearty, filling and extremely delicious stew. The ground fennel adds a great background warmth and spice to this stew. Don’t miss it out. The garlicky flavor in combination with the beans and the kale adds a great flavor to this soup.

Notes:

  • Feel free to substitute this recipe with greens/ beans/cheese of your choice, spinach and kidney beans topped with mozzarella, collards and black beans, topped with cheddar cheese etc.
  • The measurements above make a huge quantity of soup. You can either halve the recipe or freeze part of the soup, like I did.
  • Take care when you salt the soup. The broth most often has enough salt and if you have cooked the beans with salt, it would have enough.
  • Kale is a hearty greens variety and belongs to the cabbage family. To try out Kale in an Indian recipe, see my Kale molagootal here.

Sending this comforting dish to the following events:
1. My Legume Love Affair #45 even series by Susan of ‘The Well Seasoned Cook’.
2. Lets Cook – Greens
3. Bon Vivant Moments #2 – Savory
4. Comfort Food
5. Healthy Morsels – Pregnancy

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