Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cooking Adventures: Italian White Bean and Vegetable Soup

Hi guys!

As promised, I'm including selected cooking adventures with you! I've only been working with a small handful of recipes, trying to perfect them; I have trouble finding new ones that I think are up to my limited cooking skills and  that my boyfriend will also eat. I mentioned it in my chocolate cookie recipe post, but my boyfriend is a picky eater and a vegetarian! He doesn't like onions (though I've been able to sneak them in cooked to flavor things), doesn't like mushrooms, doesn't like eggplant, isn't big on zucchini or squash... It might be more accurate to describe him as a carbetarian than a vegetarian. He likes bread, potatoes, and pasta, and tends to go for blander flavors than I prefer. I've been trying to sneak more veggies into our diet, though, while finding recipes that will suit us both. I figure there must be other people out there who are in my shoes; limited cooking knowledge, trying to find tasty, reasonably healthy recipes. Bonus: they're vegetarian, so most everyone can eat them. In fact, this recipe is easily modifiable to suit a vegan diet as well; leave off the cheese on top, and you're good.

I've adapted this recipe from the Italian White Bean Soup found on "A Couple Cooks" blog. I started off making it exactly as stated on their website, but found it wasn't flavorful enough for my liking, and it had waaaay more kale than my boyfriend, dad (I fed it to him, too!) or I thought suited it. So, I added a few ingredients, halved the recipe (it just makes way more than the two of us can get through before it spoils- or we get sick of it...), and reduced the kale that goes into it.


1 bulb fennel 
1/2 onion (I use a plain ol' yellow onion) 
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on the size of the cloves and how much you like garlic!) 
1/2 bunch kale 

3 stalks celery 
1 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible) 
Enough olive oil to sautee the fennel, onion, and garlic in (I'm probably too generous with it; I use around 1/3 cup) 
2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup water 
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 
2 cans cannellini beans 
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of your favorite hot salsa - alternatively, you could use 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon basil (fresh if you can get it; I use freeze-dried) 
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon salt 

Fresh ground pepper to taste 

Parmesan cheese to garnish  

How to make the soup: 

Gather your ingredients and some key supplies. You'll need a stockpot to make your soup in, a cutting board (I like having two), a knife to chop things with, a measuring cup, and measuring spoons. Wash up your veggies; set aside the kale for now. Chop your fennel into a large dice (I do about 1/4 inch squares), discarding the flat base, and setting aside the fibrous stalks and the feathery portions. I usually chop about half of the stalks and add them in, too; they are stronger than the bulb portion, and I am not huge on the texture, but I don't notice the texture once they're in the soup, and it kicks up the flavor. I also pull off some of the feather portion from the stalks and set them aside to add later as an herb. Dice your 1/2 onion (make it slightly smaller than the fennel), and finely dice your garlic. Add enough olive oil to the base of your stockpot to cover the bottom, making it about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch deep, depending on how big your pile of fennel, onion, and garlic look. This is not an exact science. Turn on your burner to medium high, and get the oil hot, but not smoking. Throw in your pile of fennel, onion, and garlic, and move it around as it sizzles. Continue sauteeing until the onion is translucent, but do not let any of the ingredients brown (about five minutes). At this point, add your can of diced tomatoes, stir it together, and let it come to a simmer. Leave it to simmer for about 8 minutes.

During this time, go back and wash your kale if it needs to be washed. Tear it up into bite sized pieces, discarding the fibrous stalk. Dice your celery (about the size of the fennel).

After the tomato and sauteed vegetable mixture is done simmering, add the water, vegetable broth, hot salsa, and your drained beans. Add your soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, and let it come to a boil. As it is coming to a boil, you can add all of your herbs and spices (paprika, Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if you are using them). Once it is boiling, add the kale and celery, then add your reserved feathery fennel fronds, and then turn it down to a low simmer. Feel free to taste it at this point and add more salt, salsa and/or red pepper flakes and/or cayenne if you want it spicier, or more balsamic vinegar if you want it zestier. I always add more balsamic vinegar at this point, and sometimes more salt, to offset the sweetness in the tomatoes, but that's just my taste. Cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. The beans will have loosened, thickening up the broth. I usually add about 1/2 cup more water at this point, but that's up to you; if you want a thicker soup, leave it out, if you like a brothier soup, you may want to add more than 1/2 cup water (or add more broth). Soup is pretty free-style. Do what makes you happy!

Once it's done simmering for awhile (like I said, about 20-30 minutes; make sure the fennel, celery, and kale are all tender!), it's ready to serve! Garnish with grated parmesan cheese; it really adds to the flavors of the soup, and offsets the slight bitterness of the kale.

I'm really visual, so I've added pictures to show what the soup looks like at various points:

Fennel, garlic, and onion sauteeing in olive oil

The sauteed mixture after the tomatoes have been added
After the broth, water, vinegar, soy sauce, and salsa have been added

My quantity of kale and feathery fennel greens

My chopped celery

The spices and herbs! 

The happily simmering soup!

Hope you guys enjoy! We'll be back to our regular makeup-y programming next post.


  1. All the foods your boyfriend dislikes are some of my favorite foods. Especially mushrooms and zucchini ._. I don't think that he and I could ever be friends.

    On a more serious note, this looks super tasty and healthy! I don't cook too much any more because I'm back to living at home and my mom had complete reign of the kitchen.

    1. Haha, believe me, there are tons of recipes I find that I get really excited about, that I end up disregarding because he wouldn't eat it... And let's face it, cooking for yourself is not as fun as getting to serve what you're cooking to appreciative bellies!

      And maybe you can shoo your mom out of the kitchen and make her some soup one night? I don't know, maybe letting her keep her iron grip on the kitchen is a good thing! I moved back home after finishing my undergrad for a little bit, and getting home cooked meals was a definite plus. Until my dad started wanting me to fix meals for him that were beyond my skill-level!

  2. This looks so good and hearty. I love soup :) Will surely give it a try. Thanks for the recipe.

    1. You are very welcome. If you do end up trying it, let us know how it turns out, and if you've come up with any tasty adaptations or variations!


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