Cannellini Beans with Spinach

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

After an odd few days of 80 degree temperatures in New York we’re back to the weather I associate most with late October. Weather more in the vein of “a dark and stormy night” full of windy breezes that swirl the leaves and pulse with energy straight from Ghostbusters.

It’s days like today that absolutely call for something simple, warming, and earthy. A dinner that calls to mind the safety of hearth and home; simmering merrily on the stovetop through the afternoon then bringing family to gather around the table. As written this is a dish reminiscent of a Tuscan stew – creamy beans, bright lemon, leafy spinach – but with a bit more chicken stock could easily translate into a wintery soup. Even better? With just a quick swap in of vegetable stock for the broth you’ll have a fantastic main course that I’d be proud to serve to any vegetarian.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Stews always improve with a bit of time to think about what they’ve done, and so this is also a dish that I would absolutely make extras of and squirrel away in the freezer for use this winter when something cozy is just the ticket. Perfect with a slice of crusty bread toasted and rubbed with garlic or a sprinkle of parmesan melted on top.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach (serves: 8)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sage leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches mature spinach, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Place the dried beans in a large French oven or bowl and cover with double the amount of water. Cover and allow to soak for 16-24 hours at room temperature.

Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Bring beans, head of garlic, sage, 3 tablespoonsolive oil, and 6 cups chicken broth to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and simmer gently until beans are creamy all the way through but skins are still intact, 35–45 minutes. Some of the beans will break down slightly and thicken the broth. Let cool while you move onto the spinach.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium. Cook crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, just until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add spinach, letting it wilt slightly before adding more, and cook, tossing often, until leaves are just wilted, about 5 minutes; season with salt.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to sauté pan with spinach and cook, tossing gently, until beans are warmed through. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid and toss, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until coated. The mixture should be closer to a sauce than a soup in consistency. Be careful not to over cook or the beans will begin to break down. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve drizzled with oil and a slice of toasted crusty bread.

Do Ahead: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead. Keep in cooking liquid; cover and chill. Cook spinach and seasonings when ready to serve.

Re-written and lightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s Cannellini Beans with Spinach by Rita Sodi & Jody Williams.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a 6 qt. French oven, large deep sauté pan, fine mesh sieve, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, slotted spoon, microplane grater, and measuring spoons.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Apologies for the radio silence here over the past week – it’s been a busy one full of new projects and just like that project numero uno was shifted to the back burner. Which is sad because it means I’ve been withholding this fantastic recipe for a simple cassoulet from you for weeks. I realize we’re coming to the end of winter and maybe you’re reaching the end of your bean-eating rope, I know I couldn’t stand the sight of another bowl of chili.

But here’s the thing – winter hasn’t really let us go yet, I swear every time I even think about leaving the apartment without a hat it goes rainy and cold here. So, an amazing dish (that takes almost zero effort) is a good thing to have in your back pocket for those busy weeks when there’s just no time to cook, let alone grocery shop, and dinnertime has arrived. Here’s your solve:

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (1 medium) finely chopped yellow onion, finely chopped
3 teaspoons (2 medium cloves) finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 1-inch slices
1 can (28 ounce) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:
Heat the olive oil and chopped onions in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 7-8 minutes or until they soften and turn translucent.

Reduce the heat to low and add the minced garlic. Cook 1 more minute taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the kielbasa slices and thyme leaves to the pot and stir to combine.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and stir in the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring the cassoulet up to low boil over medium heat.

Partially cover the pot and turn the heat down to lo. Simmer for at least one hour stirring occasionally, to allow the liquid to reduce and the cassoulet to develop its flavors.

Check the seasoning and add salt to taste as well as the chopped parsley. Serve with toasted multi-grain bread or baguette.

Recipe re-written and adapted from Real Simple’s Slow Cooker Kielbasa and White Bean Cassoulet by Rachel Soszynski.

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100% I used a 5.5qt dutch oven, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, sieve, and measuring cups and spoons. Throw in a wooden spatula and you’re good to go!

The Verdict:
I’ve mentioned before that the way I know a recipe is a winner is when Mike is willing to eat it more than once in a week or even have leftovers the very next day. This was such a recipe – hearty, satisfying, and with a different flavor profile than spicy chili. I always think of cassoulet as a French dish, but this one leans heavily on Italian influences too, just veering away from basil at the last second back into Provence with the addition of thyme. Save this one for the next cold weekend and cross your fingers that you won’t need it until October!

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Let’s be honest, we’re at kind of an awkward stage these days – everyone is dying for spring, meanwhile it’s still cold enough for hats and gloves. I’ll admit that I’m beginning to give my puffer coat the stink-eye as I put it on for the 150th day in a row and I’ve grown a bit tired of the heavier braises and stews that feel appropriate on crystal clear winter days. What’s a beleaguered northeasterner to do when winter refuses to give up and all I really want is to cast off the cocoon?

I have zero control over the temperature, but at least I can decide what comes out of the kitchen so I’ve begun transitioning our menus to lighter flavors like this Tuscan White Bean Soup. It fits all in one pot and serves the dual purpose of providing a warming meal and packing in lots of fresh veggies. Perfect on a cold early spring day!

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup (yield: 8 servings)

Ingredients:
3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 cup (1 medium) diced onion
2 cups (2 medium) large diced carrots
1 cup (2 stalks) large diced celery
2 teaspoons (2-3 cloves) garlic minced on a microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 sprigs rosemary
1 (3-4 inch) chunk parmesan rind (optional)
2 dried bay leaves
3 to 4 cups roughly chopped kale
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions:
Sauté the diced bacon in a large French oven over medium heat until crisp, remove from the pot to a paper towel lined plate. Add the olive oil, diced onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook for 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally until softened but not browned.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic very finely using a microplane grater so that it forms a paste. Add the garlic paste and red pepper flakes to the vegetables and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant and mellow.

Next, use a sieve to drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Strip the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary reserving the stems and finely mince the leaves. Remove the tough center ribs of the kale and roughly chop the leaves into large pieces.

Add the chicken broth, cannellini beans, rosemary stems, parmesan rind, and bay leaves to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to a bare simmer, add chopped kale, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the kale wilts.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary stems. Ladle 2 cups of soup into a blender or food processor and process at low speed until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and stir to combine. Taste and add kosher salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the soup with a sprinkle of the reserved chopped rosemary leaves, diced bacon, grated parmesan cheese, and a final drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. A slice or two of rustic bread won’t go amiss either.

Adapted from 30 Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt via Serious Eats

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used my trusty 5.5 quart Le Creuset French oven, a large cutting board, a chef’s knife, microplane grater, vegetable peeler, wooden spatula, sieve and measuring cups. If you want to add some creaminess to the soup, then a stick blender, food processor, etc. will be helpful as will a large spoon or ladle.

The Verdict:
This soup successfully navigates the tricky waters of balancing kale’s fresh green bitterness with the light, creamy cannellini beans. Rosemary and bay leaves offer depth and there’s just a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes and garlic. A bit of salt from the bacon (when did bacon ever hurt anything?) and parmesan round out the mix. A great transitional meal that comes together quickly! 

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith