This rustic white bean soup is stockless and gets its goodness and oomph from the beans’ own cooking liquid. Half a dozen sage leaves impart an amazing amount of flavor. It’s just the thing for cooler weather, costs two bucks all told and feeds six. And you’ll have done it yourself. Beans may be cooked a day ahead, if that reduces your anxiety. Plan your life accordingly.
- 1 pound dried white beans (cannelloni or great Northern)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 dried red pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small head escarole or 1 bunch kale, washed well,
blotted dry and chopped fine
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 cup or more white wine
- Sea salt to taste
To soak beans, rinse them first to rid them of any grit and toss any errant pebbles or odd bits that found their way into the mix. Pour beans into a large bowl and cover with cold water, making sure the water level is an inch or two above the level of the beans. Dried beans are happy to expand and soak up water, so check your beans every now and again and top up with more water, if needed. When you’re ready to cook the beans, drain them and rinse them well.
In a large stockpot with tight-fitting lid, add beans and cover fresh water, with the water level about an inch above the level of the beans. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 4 whole cloves of garlic, the sage leaves, red pepper and bay leaf and bring to boil.
Cover and reduce heat to low. Let beans simmer unattended for 90 minutes.
Check beans. They should be soft and tender and rich with flavor from the sage and garlic. Remove the bay leaf.
(If you want to stop at this point, let beans and liquid cool Store tightly covered in the refrigerator overnight. To proceed, reheat beans in stockpot over medium-high heat.)
Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Chop remaining garlic clove, add pinch of red pepper flakes and the chopped escarole or kale. Stir until greens wilt, but are still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the wine.
Using a wooden spoon and some muscle or an immersion blender, smash beans until they thicken into the liquid and turn creamy. Get as smooth as you like — me, I like some whole bean in there for a nice rustic feel. Heat through over medium-high heat.
Stir in wilted greens and remaining wine. Add another 1/2 cup of wine or water, if the mixture seems too thick. Season with sea salt.