The cold, wet sideways rain is back, so you know what that means…SOUP! I know yesterday was the first day of spring but you certainly wouldn’t know it by looking out the window. A nice hot bowl of tummy warming soup is just what the doctor ordered for fending off nasty weather, and the sniffles that come along with it, especially a hearty one like this that is loaded with cannelini beans, butternut squash, carrots, potatoes and kale, and of course some crusty bread for dipping. Mmmm…. Almost makes the wet weather worth it; almost. I’m sure our water department is doing cartwheels though and my garden is loving it.
This is one meal where every ingredient adds more goodness; vitamins, minerals, fiber, flavor, color, texture. You get the picture. Together they are deliciously yummy and you can taste the healthy. I was actually looking for a recipe that called for kale since I still have loads of kale from my winter garden which will soon get re-planted for spring. Since I’ve been picking away at these poor plants all season, they are getting quite tall. It’s almost time to plant tomatoes and peppers, my garden favorites!
I spotted this recipe from Saveur and loved the combination of veggies, but I didn’t really know what made it Tuscan (other than the region, Tuscany), so enter smart phone. I googled it. In response to my typed in question, “What is Tuscan Cuisine?”, The Examiner claims the word Tuscan as a description for food is way overused and often a marketing ploy. Tuscany is the land of simple and honest flavors with cooking that might be heartier than much of the rest of the country. Soffrito, a mixture of chopped celery, onions, garlic, peppers and herbs sautéed in olive oil, is used as a base for soups and sauces and beans are a big part of the diet. Tuscans don’t eat as much pasta as other Italians. So there you have it, Tuscan Bean Soup it is. I did adapt the recipe to make it fewer steps and a faster cooking time but feel free to check out the original by clicking on the link above.
TIPS: I love foods with real ingredients, even if that means peeling, scrubbing or chopping. Oh, I have been known to pick up already cut up butternut squash (like I did today) because butternut squash can be a pain to peel and deseed, and I love shortcuts just like everyone else. You can even buy a mixture of pre-cut carrots, celery and onions in some stores if you’re in a real hurry, but I usually draw the line there. You can also substitute any other kind of squash and if you’re tired of kale, use spinach or a mixture of power greens.
I used canned cannellini beans because I didn’t know I was going to make Tuscan Bean Soup last night so I didn’t think to soak my beans overnight. If you want to use dried beans, soak them overnight in water and then cook them with some of the bean water with the onions, celery and carrots for 30 – 40 minutes. This soup is thickened by blending about a quarter of the soup (before adding the kale). If you like a brothy soup, skip this step. If you like a thicker soup puree a third to a half of the soup.
TUSCAN BEAN SOUP WITH SQUASH AND KALE
- Saute onions, celery and carrots in 1/4 cup olive oil until onions are translucent.
- Add broth, thyme, potatoes and squash and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes are soft.
- Add beans and stir to combine.
- Scoop out about 2 cups of soup mixture and puree until smooth.
- Return the pureed mixture back into the soup and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
- Add kale and simmer 5 to 10 minutes
- Slice bread and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper. Broil about five minutes, turning halfway through.
- To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with olive oil or a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.
- Or be a purist and serve soup plain.
Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale