Tuscan Bean Stew
- 1/2 lb cannellini beans
- 1.5 T Salt (Table)
- 2 L water
- 1/2 c chopped pancetta (or bacon)
- 1/2 T olive oil
- 1 chopped celery stalks
- 1 chopped carrots
- 1/2 chopped onion (large)
- 2 cloves garlic (smashed)
- 3.5 c chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 7 oz canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 c chopped kale (or collard greens or other dark, leafy green, chopped into about 2" pieces)
- 1 rosemary (sprig)
Make a brine with the salt and water; cool to room temperature. Check the beans over for stones, then add to the brine. Soak the beans at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 250F.
Cut pancetta into 1/4" cubes. Put oil in a dutch oven or stockpot, heat up, then add pancetta. Let cook 6-8 minutes or so, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta's nicely golden.
Drain beans, rinse the salt off; set aside.
Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook down until they get very soft and a little brown, still over medium heat, about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add beans to the pot, then chicken broth and bay leaves. (If using storebought chicken broth, use half low-sodium chicken broth and half water). Bring to a simmer, then put lid on and place in oven for 1 hour.
Drain tomatoes and rinse; prepare kale. Get soup out of oven, add tomatoes and kale, stir in, and put back in the oven. Continue baking for 30 minutes.
Remove soup from oven, check to see if beans are tender (eat one). If they aren't, replace in oven and check every 20 minutes. When they are, add rosemary sprig and let the soup sit, covered, off heat for about 15 minutes.
Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Serve and enjoy!
Note from source: Brining the beans makes the skins softer without affecting the inside of the beans; do not cook with salt because it'll make the inside of the beans gritty/grainy. Baking the soup on low instead of cooking on the stovetop makes the beans come tender without blowing up.
SJ Note: We'll try this without the greens (kale, etc). I've halved this from the original source.
SJ Note 29 Jan 2012: This was okay, but a bit bland. Needed more salt and pepper for us, but if you use storebought broth, be sure to go easy on the extra salt. The trick with brining the beans and then cooking without salt until they were tender worked well to keep the beans from exploding, and they did have good texture. I'll definitely repeat that method in the future. We made it with parma ham instead of pancetta because we had some on hand; the video I got this from said they have a vegetarian version on their website somewhere, if you're so inclined. We ate half and froze half for another day; will update with how well it freezes.