Who doesn't love a hearty stew or soup on a cold night? No one I can think of either. Two nights ago friends of mine, Katie and Silas, were hosting a party they called "Bean Feast" at their family home on the outskirts of town. The catch was that everything eaten had to be based on some sort of bean.
I was excited to go, but had no idea what to make. On top of not having any inspiration for a dish, I had little in the pantry to play with. And on top of that, a cold New England night was setting in and I was not driving to a grocery store. And the kicker of all this was I realized all these handicaps to my bringing a dish maybe an hour before having to be at the party.
Thank God for the 1000's of sites on the internet dedicated to fast, easy cooking. After taking stock of what I had in the house and with a recipe for "Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes (courtesey of delish.com)," I got to work. Sadly, there was no Swiss Chard in the house and the dish was not working out. At that point my improvisational skills kicked into gear and the recipe I'll give you now is what I came up with. Most of the ingredients should be in your kitchen. If there not, stock. You'll want to make this on a cold night.
Anthony's Cold Night Tuscan Soup
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic (Sliced thinly)
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Cups Canned Chopped or Diced Tomatoes
3 Cans of Cannellini Beans (Rinsed and tossed dry)
1 head of Romaine Lettuce
Balsamic Vinegar (To taste)
1 Small Jar of Pesto
3/4 Lbs. Cooked Sweet Italian Sausage (Optional)
In a pot heat the Olive Oil on a low heat. Add the Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper and cook over a slightly higher heat until the Garlic is a gold color (don't burn it). Dump the Tomatoes (Chopped or Diced, your choice) and bring to a boil, stirring often.
While the Tomatoes are heating in the pot, cut the Romaine Lettuce into strips. Place the strips into a bowl and pour some Balsamic Vinegar onto the Lettuce. Stir these to coat the Lettuce and set aside.
Next add the Cannellini Beans to the pot mixture. Stir these in and bring to a simmer over higher heat for atleast five minutes. Once the the beans looked cooked add in the Romaine Lettuce and let that cook too. Finally, you may lower the heat and stir in a small jar of your preferred brand of Pesto. Add the sausage if you like, or you may keep it Vegetarian.Serve hot with some sort of rustic bread.
I made the Vegetarian version as I didn't know if anyone at the party was a Vegetarian. Without the sausage this is still a hearty and filling dish. Next time I'm adding sausage though for my own enjoyment.
To end the story and this post, I'll tell you that my dish was very popular and we nearly finished the pot. The other dishes served included a bean dip made with roasted red peppers, a bean salad, a great pot of chili, a pasta and bean salad, and bean brownies (these were actually delicious and very chocolatey (spelling?)). After dinner atleast half the party stayed and played boardgames and Taboo and held various conversations until 1 am. Katie and Silas really do show their friends a wonderful, hearty, and casual hospitality that I know I appreciated sincerely. Their thank you card is in the mail now actually.
Have a great Sunday and feel free to make comments or ask questions anytime.