Tuscan Style Kale, Bean and Tomato Soup

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I love this soup! I could live on it – especially in the winter. Chalk full of beans, fresh vegetables and grains, this soup embodies the very essence of a rustic Italian zuppe! I love that it is hearty enough to be a meal on its own and that I can make the whole thing in about 30 minutes – if my beans are cooked.  

I used dark red kidney beans in this recipe but you can use Cannellini beans if you prefer. Cannellini beans are simply white kidney beans and are often the bean of choice in Italian dishes.  You could also use great northern or navy beans, chickpeas or a combination of various beans. There are no hard rules here! When I was preparing the recipe for this post, I had a small amount of chickpeas in my refrigerator left over from something else so I added them to the soup. I tend to do things like that where I can, in an effort not to waste food. 

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Buckwheat groats are essentially ready to eat after soaking overnight. You’ll notice in the photo below that soaking doesn’t significantly increase the size of the groats; they simple go from hard little triangular kernels to soft plump kernels that you can squeeze between your fingers quite easily. The soaking water becomes slightly gelatinous – just rinse the groats thoroughly and set them aside until you need them. Buckwheat groats are gluten-free. Despite their name, they contain no wheat, nor are they part of the wheat family. If you do not have a gluten-intolerance, you could substitute barley, bulgar, freekeh or even pasta for the buckwheat groats. However, note that the cooking times for those grains will likely be longer.  

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Nourishing and delicious, If you have a big enough pot, I suggest making a large quantity of this soup and reheating as needed. It will last for several days in the refrigerator which makes it a perfect recipe for our busy lives. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup dried kidney beans, soaked over night and cooked (or use 1 can, rinsed)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat groats, soaked at least an hour, or overnight
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, peeled (mince all but one clove)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch of dark green curly kale (you could also use Lacinata kale)
  • 1 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence (use pinch of dried thyme if you don’t have it)
  • Handful of fresh basil, torn

Grated ‘Parmesan” Cheese

  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine everything in a small nut grinder or coffee grinder and pulse until crumbly and well blended. Be careful not to over process. This can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. 

DIRECTIONS

If you are using canned beans, skip past the next paragraph. Just rinse and drain the beans and set aside.

Soak the dried kidney beans and buckwheat separately in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain the soaked beans and place them with the bay leaf and one clove of garlic in a saucepan large enough to hold at least 3 or 4 times the volume of water. Fill the pot with 6-8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans for 40-45 minutes. (Maintain a gentle, steady boil).  Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water after 20 minutes or so. At 40 minutes, the beans should be almost done. If they seem a little  undercooked, give them another 5 minutes but you do not want to overcook them. I find that if the beans have been soaked overnight, 40 minutes of cooking is perfect. After 40 minutes, the beans will be soft but still have a bit of a bite to them. Removing the pot from the heat right at 40 minutes and allowing the beans to cool completely in the cooking water results perfectly cooked beans. Once the beans have cooled completely, you can strain the cooking water, reserving the bay leaf and the clove of garlic. Place the reserved bay leaf and cooked garlic clove in a large soup pot and mash the garlic clove. (If you haven’t been able to soak the beans overnight, they will take longer to cook – you’ll have to check them for doneness every now and again after the 40 minute mark).

To a large pot, add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, chopped carrots, celery and onion, remaining minced garlic, cooked beans and thoroughly rinsed buckwheat groats. Bring everything to a boil. While the stock is heating up, prepare the kale. Separate the leaves from the stems and cut the stems into half-inch pieces. Coarsely tear the leaves. Add the stems to the soup pot. When the soup reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are just tender.  Add the kale leaves to the pot all at once and push them down with a wooden spoon to submerge them in the broth. Simmer the soup for about 5 minutes. Lastly, stir in the fresh basil. 

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The soup is now ready to eat. Slice or cut chunks of the most rustic bread you can find and lightly grill on both sides. There is a local bakery in my area that makes wonderful rustic sourdough breads and although they are not gluten free the flavour of the sourdough complements the broth extremely well. Place a piece/slice of grilled bread in the bottom of each soup bowl and ladle the soup around and over the bread. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese. Alternatively, ladle the soup into the bowls and place a slice of grilled bread on top, pushing it into the broth so that it is partially submerged. Sprinkle cheese over the bread and the broth and serve. I like serving this soup in shallow wide bowls for visual appeal.

 Serves 5 to 6 generously.

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