Tag Archives: cannellini beans

White Bean and Basil Bruschetta

White Bean and Basil Bruschetta

I love the variety and flexibility of bruschetta. Served with a salad, fresh fruit, and a robust wine, this appetizer becomes a wonderfully light and satisfying main meal. As a variation, consider topping the beans with grilled radicchio, sauteed zucchini, or seared baby spinach and capers.

2 c. cooked cannellini beans (or 2 15 oz. cans)
5 T. extra virgin olive oil
5 T. good quality balsamic vinegar
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
3 T. basil leaves (chiffonade)
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
salt and pepper
2-4 slices of day old rustic bread, grilled or toasted
Serves 2.

To prepare:
Mix olive oil, vinegar, and pepper flakes in a bowl. With a small whisk mix rapidly to emulsify into a creamy dressing. This should take about 15 seconds and insures that the emulsified dressing will coat the beans.

Add the garlic, then fold in the beans and basil, reserving a little of the basil for garnishing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for a few minutes while you grill or toast the bread.

To assemble, spoon the beans onto toasted bread, drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Note: When I can, I use fresh cannellini beans. They hold their shape and texture better than canned. If using canned beans, be sure to rinse them well, and handle them very gently. Canned beans have a softer texture and can quickly turn into a mash if mishandled.

Tuscan White Beans and Greens Soup

Zuppa di Fagioli e Erbezzone as it’s known in Italy, is hearty and delicious. This recipe is courtesy of friend of the show and frequent guest chef, Cathi DiCocco.

Makes 6 quarts

2 pounds fresh shelled cannellini beans OR 1 pound dried beans, soaked overnight & drained OR 3- 17oz. cans beans, rinsed & drained
1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
3 bay leaves
1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 sticks of celery, chopped
16 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
8 leeks, white part only, OR 3 med. onions, peeled & chopped
4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and crushed OR 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 T. chopped fresh garlic (1 average bulb)
8 sprigs of fresh herb, leaves removed; rosemary, sage OR thyme
3 bunches fresh greens (Swiss chard, escarole, or collards), chopped
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cover beans with water. Add bay leaves and halved garlic bulb. Bring to boil and simmer till slightly soft. Cover and let sit 1 hour. Strain through colander, reserving 1/2 of the broth. Remove garlic and bay leaves. If using canned beans simply drain and rinse.

Blend half of the beans into a puree w/broth or water. Reserve the rest of the beans to add to soup near the end of cooking time.

In large stockpot sauté celery, carrots and onions in olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes, chopped garlic, and herbs. After 5 minutes, add chopped greens, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook 10 more minutes. Add bean purée and enough broth or water to make a thick soup. Cook slowly for about an hour. Add water or broth as needed to thin. Ten minutes before serving, stir in whole beans to heat through.

Ladle into bowls and top with rustic herb croutons. Drizzle with the finest extra virgin olive oil you can find.

Vegan “Cream” Alternative

One trick I learned in Italy while making vegetable minestrone or potato leek soup was how to thicken a soup without cream. My non-dairy option can also be added to mashed potatoes or pasta sauces to add extra protein and a rich delicious flavor.

My substitute “cream” consists of cannellini beans, puréed in a food processor until smooth. Simply stir bean paste, a tablespoon at a time, into your soup or sauce to add a rich, creamy texture. This is a wonderful alternative to heavy cream or even a flour based thickener.

Since you will have to open an whole can of beans, here’s a tip for the leftover beans. Place the remaining beans in a bowl and add one very finely minced garlic clove, a little salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil to create a delicious spread for chewy bread or steamed vegetables. It resembles hummus but has a milder flavor and is much easier to make. The best part is you’ll love the taste while you’re replacing the butter and use up your leftover beans. Give it a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.