Now that Fall is here, it's time for this healthy and hearty white bean soup from Tuscany. I love its varied textures and flavors, particularly the savory bits of salami. Nutrient-rich kale, white northern beans, and garlic make this soup a potent immune booster as well as a great source of dietary fiber and iron. Try it on a crisp Autumn day with a glass of red wine.
1 lb dried great northern beans
fresh or dried rosemary, oregano, and basil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced + 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 lb salami, diced (1/2" pieces)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch kale, large stems discarded, leaves chopped
fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
freshly grated parmesan (optional)
1. Soak the beans in water overnight in a large bowl (12-24 hours). Drain. (Note: Dried beans expand when soaked. Use a bowl that is at least 2x as deep as the dried beans themselves.)
2. In a large pot, combine the beans with 3 smashed garlic cloves, rosemary, oregano, and basil. (Note: For dried spice, use approximately 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp oregano.) Add enough water to cover with 1" extra, then bring to a boil.
3. Simmer over med-low heat for 25 minutes until beans begin to soften.
4. Add 2 tsp salt and simmer 20 more minutes until beans are tender. (Not only does this improve the flavor of the beans, it also helps break down the outer skins and makes the beans more digestible.)
5. Drain the beans.
6. In a large soup pot (I prefer enameled cast iron), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the salami in the olive oil for 5-8 minutes, until lightly crisped. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the oil.
7. Add the carrots, onion, celery, sliced garlic cloves and additional herbs to season. (For dried herbs, I use approx 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp oregano.)
8. Saute the veggies for 2 minutes over medium heat, then cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes to soften.
9. Add the beans and the chicken broth to the vegetables.
10. Transfer half of the soup to a blender and pulse until the beans are lightly pureed. Alternately, use an immersion blender for this step. Only puree half the bean mixture. (This step is about texture and improved digestibility.)
11. Add the blended soup back into the pot if it was removed.
12. Add the kale leaves and salami, then bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes until kale is softened. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.
13. Serve with fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley and grated parmesan cheese on top (optional).
I like to eat this soup with hearty whole-grain bread and a glass of red wine. Petite Sirah or Shiraz would be an ideal pairing. To stay true to the soup's Tuscan origin, enjoy it with a glass of Chianti.