White Bean Soup with Fennel and Kale

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I love cooking. It speaks to my love of personal transformation, poetry, alchemy, turning bad sh!t into glorious motherlovin’ gold. 

I mean, how else might we describe turning this….

fennel

and this….

 

Beans

…into THIS:

 

DSC02515

It’s amazing! 

And, thank Dionysus or Walt Whitman or maybe Frida Kahlo that I’m not the only one who tastes the intersection between art, magic, and self-realization when she takes a bite of something amazing. 

Lauren Zuniga knows exactly what I’m talkin’ bout.

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I love that poem. And, as you can tell, I love this soup. Everyone does. It’s by far my most requested meal, even by Soleil. It captures the magic of Tuscan cooking: simple, rustic, healthy–and so damn flavorful. A dish of gentle contrasts, the white beans are both delicate and hearty, and the combination of the slightly sweet fennel and the savory thyme tastes like home…in Italy. And if you take the time to make your own whole wheat croutons, just get the f*ck out of here. You made a perfect protein combo. You’re amazing! Lauren Zuniga is amazing! The soup is amazing! Everything is amazing!!! 

sol and cheryll eating soup

The hatch is open! Sol’s not gonna miss a bite of her favorite “crouton” soup

Especially fennel. Here’s a little something I bet you didn’t know about this wonderfully aromatic spice.

fennel-seeds-

“Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutinquercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity…

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.” 

And I don’t even need to tell you about the health benefits of kale because my friends at Thrive Cuisine will do it better right HERE.   It helps your body fight cancer and glaucoma, lowers cholesterol, and improves immune system function. 

Yet, despite its Tuscan roots, I came up with this recipe in Mendoza, Argentina, which boasts a rich wine and food culture heavily influenced by its Italian heritage. In fact, up to 62% of the Argentine population have some degree of Italian descent. So, not surprisingly, on our first afternoon in Mendoza, an Argentine-Italian woman at our hostel made a big dish of baked fennel with ham, breadcrumbs, and cream, and invited us to join her and ten other guests at the table. I had been cooking with fennel seed for years, and occasionally I’d buy a bulb just to eat raw (it’s crunchy like celery but tastes like black licorice), but I’d never thought to cook with it.

For the next few months, Tree and Soleil bravely tested numerous dishes with cooked fennel, but this soup was the winner by far! I usually serve this soup with an arugula salad, which will be the next recipe I post. Also, it freezes very well! In fact, like all soups, I think it tastes better “the next day.”

Frozen Soup 

Okay, so without further ado…the recipe: 

White Bean Soup with Fennel and Kale
Serves 4
This soup captures the magic of Tuscan cooking: simple, rustic, healthy--and so damn flavorful. ​A dish of gentle contrasts, the white beans are both delicate and hearty, and the combination of the slightly sweet fennel and the savory thyme tastes like ​home...in Italy.
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Ingredients
  1. 6 cups of cooked white beans*; or 4 15oz cans of white beans
  2. 2 fennel bulbs, chopped bite-sized (discard the stalks)*
  3. 1 bunch of kale, de-ribbed, chopped bite-sized
  4. 4 cloves of garlic, chopped small
  5. 1 tablespoon of fennel seed
  6. 1 1/2 tablespoon of dried thyme
  7. 2-3 bay leaves (optional)
  8. vegetable stock or 2 tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon (vegetable)
  9. parmesan
  10. croutons
  11. red chili flakes
Instructions
  1. 1. Soak 2 cups of dried beans overnight. The next day, first drain and then cook them in a big pot with water and bay leaves until very tender, about 1-1 1/2 hours. When done, drain out half the liquid, set aside. Or, if you're using canned beans, simply drain, rinse, and set beans aside.
  2. 2. Generously coat bottom of a big pot with olive oil, med-heat, add fennel seed and thyme. A minute later, add garlic and fennel bulb.
  3. 3. Stir until fennel is soft, about 12 minutes. Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of water and cover it for 2 minutes to hurry it along with some steam.
  4. 4. Once fennel is tender, add beans and vegetable stock. The stock should cover the beans by about an inch. Or, if you're using Better Than Bouillon, cover with water and add 2 generous tablespoons.
  5. 4. Add chopped and de-ribbed kale
  6. 5. Bring to a light boil and then cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes, uncovered. The soup should thicken a bit. If it looks like it's getting too thick, add broth.
  7. 6. Serve soup with grated parmesan, croutons, and hot red chili flakes on the side.
Notes
  1. * 2 cups of dried beans yields 6 cups of cooked beans
  2. * The stalks are edible as well. Feel free to nibble on them while you cook, or serve them as crudité along side some carrots, both are in the same family. Raw fennel is crunchy like celery and tastes like black licorice.
  3. * I like to serve this soup with an arugula salad.
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Comments

  1. Crouton soup. Yummm!

  2. I got our first video done…want to see a sneek peek?

  3. YUM!!!

  4. Yes please!!! I love soups. Tree’s harder to convince, but sometimes if I call them a ‘dip’ and serve them with a crostini he can be convinced. 🙂

  5. That’s the ticket!!!

  6. YUM! This soup IS amazing! Thanks for the printable recipe.

  7. This soup is OMG delicious! Thank you!

  8. Yes please.

  9. Can you send me a sample??? Yummmm

  10. I’ve used spinach, and one time even arugula.

  11. Jackie, you need to know my friend Corrin. She’s the chef behind Fresh P on YouTube. You’ll LOVE her cooking channel. I hereby officially suggest your friendship so that you can pm us both the recipe to your amazing sweet potato basil soup. Yummy! 😉

  12. Perfect!

  13. Hi Jackie, thanks for the friending. I have some favorite recipes under my notes tab on FB, and of course, on YouTube. I look forward to your posts.

  14. Looks Delicious!

  15. This is going to be a very exciting and tasty virtual friendship. I can feel it.

  16. The question is, can you taste it? 😉

  17. After you made this soup for us I knew that it would become a staple in my house and I am happy to say that it has! I made a big ol batch of it for a group of friends and everyone was equally enamored with it. This soup has it all comfort, health, a bit of sweet and a dash of spice! This is definitely a keeper! Thanks!!!!!

  18. I made this tonight with navy beans and it was absolutely delicious. Thank you, love you, yum.

  19. Ann Zimmerman says:

    Stevie! This looks so good! I need your knowledge about doing vegetarianism the right way. You’re active, like me, and I can’t seem to get enough energy out of a meat free diet. I’m sure there’s some adjustments your body goes through but I’ve found it seriously hard and can’t seem to get it right. As I KNOW you know, when you’re traveling constantly it’s SO hard to find quality meat. I want to gag every time I’m in the meat section in some of these places. I’m about done with it. Any info or sources you can pass along? Also, Dave and Wynne are kinda picky eaters it may be an uphill battle… Solely looks like she’s thriving!! I hope we find a way for our paths to cross again down the road!

    • Clearly auto-correct took over… Soleil is thriving, not Solely, where did that even come from??

    • Hey Ann! Sorry about the delay in my response. As I know you can relate, time slips away from me. Anyhow, it’s so good to hear from you. I wish our paths would cross again soon. I want to meet Mae! And I know Sol and Wynne would have a blast together at this age.

      So, let’s see, where to begin…. Well, first of all, I’ve been trying to move Tree and I over to a vegetarian diet (we even tried vegan for a while) for years now, and I struggled with the same two issues, 1) low energy (and even low-grade anemia with me) and 2)Tree not exactly doing cartwheels for tofu-lentil-hippie creations. Yet, at this point, I cook 95% vegetarian (and save the 5% for good meat because I agree, factory farmed shit is just cruel and gross), and we’re all pretty happy with it. It was a slow process of trying out meals, tweaking them to be more appealing, and then adding the winners into the menu rotation. When creating or considering a recipe, obviously try to make it a perfect protein and include a variety of colored veggies somewhere in the meal. Here’s a good article on vegetarian/vegan protein sources: http://greatist.com/health/complete-vegetarian-proteins

      Another helpful thing for us was to find vegetarian solutions to meals we already liked a lot. Example, we used to make fish tacos all the time, but now I make lentil tacos that I tweaked until they were super flavorful, juicy, and had exciting toppings (recipe coming). Or, I tweaked a Chicken Tortilla Soup that Tree already loved by removing chicken and adding more beans and rice and some extra toppings and spices to spruce it up (recipe coming, too). And, then, like I said, when we start to feel like our bodies really need some meat, we eat some so that we don’t get bitter and angry about our commitment to eat more consciously. My friend Corrin, who you may have briefly met at my baby shower, has a cooking channel called Fresh Princess on Youtube, and she cooks exclusively vegetarian meals. You may find dishes or at least ideas that appeal to you, too. I’ll try and get the lentil tacos and tortilla soup recipes up on the site asap because they’re usually a crowd-pleaser, and they make lots of leftovers, and the soup freezes really well. I just posted Noni’s Garden Pasta and that has decent protein with the whole wheat pasta and feta, and a shit-ton of fresh veggies, and both Sol and Tree love it. If you find any winners on your end, pass them over please!!! I’m always looking for new things to try, otherwise I get bored and start to miss my meats! 🙂 Big hugs to you and the family. oxoxoxox

      • P.S. Corrin also has an enormous vegetarian cookbook collection. I’m sure she’d be happy to pass on her favorite titles. I’ve never really used cookbooks, but after spending time at her house and perusing through the shelves, I see their value. Of course, with both of our lifestyles, finding the recipes online or putting the books on your kindle will be key.Cookbooks are enormous!

  20. OMG, I’m a horrible cook, and didn’t even know what fennel was!!! But, wow, was this soup ever delicious (and I loved the aroma the fennel, thyme & garlic created in my RV too). Thank you for sharing this terrific recipe! I can’t wait to cook up another batch!

    I, too, have finally settled to a “plant-strong” diet of about 95% plants/ 5% meats rather than purely vegan. Better than having to take a bunch of B12 supplements, and the whole organic meats/eggs/cheeses make me feel a bit better than some questionable ingredients in veganized alternatives loaded with soy and oils.

    Looking forward to trying more of your simple, wholesome, flavorful recipes in the months to come!

    • Yay!!! I’m so glad you loved it! It’s one of our favorites. I have a delicious, vegetarian, protein-rich Tortilla Soup coming up soon! Your comment is motivating me to get crackin!

  21. This sounds like a great recipe to try. Thanks for sharing this..

    Simon

  22. Made this tonight and the kids say “THANK YOU AUNT STEVIE!!!”
    We love you and miss you!

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