White Bean, Fennel and Barley Stew
Fall has arrived in Puglia and it is wet and grey, a stark contrast to the previous weeks of sunny skies, cool air, and a hot sun. This bean stew is the perfect meal for this weather. As often happens with one pot meals, I threw everything in, a fennel that had been in the frdige for a few days, some farro that needed a purpose, leeks which were purchased for the soup and these gorgeous white beans that we had needed to soak for a while. Delicious, though it was heartier than it needed to be, it was a spectacular stew.
It is presently pouring rain outside, my poor baby was soaking wet when she got to school, even under her pink poncho. I unfortunately don’t think like the rest of the people in this town, I figured that it would be better for her to be active with her classmates at school on a day like today. She was the only kid in the classroom when she arrived, everyone else kept their cuties at home to keep them from getting wet, hopefully they trickled in throughout the morning. Not easy being a foreigner sometimes, no matter how many years you can live in a country, immerse yourself in a culture, and learn a language, some of those unwritten rules like keeping your almost 4 year old at home on a rainy day, are hard to wrap your head around. Not to mention the fact that these trains of thought seem insane to me. I am not like my Dutch relatives who would gladly take a walk in this hideous weather, but I don’t think that a little rain with set you up in bed for a week. We may need to invest in a pair of galoshes for her, but I would rather her engaged at school than vegetating in front of the boob tube at home.
White Bean, Fennel and Barley Stew
- 1 pound white beans (such as navy beans, small white beans, or cannelini), washed, picked over and soaked for 6 hours o overnight in 2 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 quarts water
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- Salt to taste
- 2 leeks, white part only, well washed and chopped
- 1 large fennel bulb with fronds, chopped, fronds set aside
- 1 cup pearled barley or farro
- a parmigiano reggiano rind, if available
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- A light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Drain the beans. Place the beans in a pot and cover with about 2 inches of water, bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about an hour, until the beans are just tender, skim off foam when necessary. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the leeks. Cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the carrot and the fennel. Stir together for a few minutes, then add the drained beans and the farro, cover with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, add the parmesan rind, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are thoroughly tender and falling apart, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust salt. Remove the parmesan rind.
Remove from the heat and toss in the fennel fronds. Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and crusty bread.
Three Years Ago: Snapper alla Matalotta, Risotto with Snapper in a Saffron Broth, Farfalle with Calamari and Yellow Tomatoes, Risotto with Pattypan Squash, Kale and Grilled Sausage & Summer Squash Curry
Five Years Ago: Obama!!, Linguine with Artichokes, Cicoria Saltata in Padella, Lunch in Anzio, Mezze Maniche alla Checca, Squid Ink Risotto with Cuttlefish and Artichokes, Mezze Maniche con i Broccoli Romani, Braised Lentils With Spinach, Fish, Zucchini and Potato Gratin, Mushroom and Celery Salad & Risotto alla Milanese