Tuscan White Bean Soup is my ultimate comfort food when the weather gets chilly. It’s rich and creamy with delicate hints of garlic and sage.
Ok, fess up. Who started the myth that soaking beans with salt would make them tough?
It doesn’t. Soaking beans in salted water before cooking actually tenderizes the skin and infuses the whole bean with flavor. True. And starting with dry beans that you’ve cooked is not only economical, but will make your Tuscan White Bean soup far better than starting with beans from a can.
Thank goodness that Keith checked out Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen from our local library, or I might still believe the myth. The ratio is simple – 3 tablespoons of salt dissolved into 4 quarts of water and 1 pound of dry beans. Soak the beans in the salty water overnight and rinse the next morning. Transfer the beans to the bowl of a slow cooker and add enough water to cover them by about an inch; cook on low until tender. Alternately, you can cook them in an oven safe pot with a tightly fitting lid in a slow oven (300 degrees F). Cooking time for dried beans swings wildly depending on the age of the beans. It could be 3 hours, up to 6 or more (test them often once you cross the 3 hour mark). This will yield about 6 1/2 cups of cooked beans. Note: Cooked beans freeze beautifully.
Enough about beans. I want to tell you about the sport that Keith and I have picked up this year, the one we wish we could do every day. And this Tuscan White Bean Soup, I want to tell you about that too.
It’s cross country skiing that Keith and I have taken up this year. We’re long time downhill skiiers (especially Keith – since he was 3!), but this is a whole new thing. The places it can take you! For example, to Paulina Creek Falls, in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and on to Paulina Lake. To see these places that we know well in the heat of summer frozen and frosted in the grip of winter, it steals my breath.
The top photo is of Keith and I at Paulina Creek falls and the lower of our friend Tom and I at the frozen Paulina lake. This was just before a huge bald eagle flew over – I’m not kidding.
And since I’m posting skiing photos I love, just one more. The photo below is from our first day of skiing this year. He’s beautiful isn’t he?
A downside or a bonus of skiing, depending on how you want to look at it, is that you can stumble in to your house famished and chilled to the bone. But it’s nothing that a hot bath and a big bowl of Tuscan White Bean Soup and a slice or two of Cheesy Garlic Bread can’t cure and once you’ve made you beans, you can whip this up in just under 30 minutes with almost no effort.
Tuscan White Bean Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots minced
- 3 leaves fresh sage
- 4 cups cooked cannellini beans see post for directions on cooking them
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 6 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add butter, olive oil, and minced shallot; cook and stir until shallots are softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add sage leaves and beans; stir to combine. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
Add garlic and simmer until garlic is soft, about 10 minutes more.
Use a handheld immersion blender if you have one, to puree about half of the soup, leaving a few beans in tact. Be sure to puree the sage leaves; they're pretty potent if you end up with a whole leaf in your mouth.) If you don't have an immersion blender, use a standard blender, pureeing the soup in batches. Because the soup is hot, use a towel to cover the blender instead of the lid. Hot liquids in a lidded blender expand and will splatter out and could burn you.
Once you've pureed your desired amount of soup and poured it back in the soup pot, add the heavy cream, pepper, and salt to taste. Heat until warm enough to serve, but not boiling.
Serve with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.