Winter White Bean Soup with Olives and Kale


The earthy, slightly smoky taste of this soup (thanks to the smoked and fire-roasted tomatoes and Kalamata olives), is unbelievably satisfying on a winter’s day. Muir Glen sells a line of fire-roasted canned tomatoes; California Sun Dry sells smoked dried tomatoes that are foil-packed instead of oil-packed. Serve with a slice of crusty bread and call it a meal.

1 cup dry navy beans
1 1/4 cups dry white kidney (cannellini) beans
1 fresh rosemary sprig
4 large sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1 to 2 dried chiles de arbol (optional; they add more depth of flavor than actual heat)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
10 foil packed smoked sun-dried tomato halves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more to taste
10 pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 small bunch Lacinato kale, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme

1. Rinse and sort the navy and kidney beans, then cover in 2 inches of cold water. Soak overnight or up to 24 hours, until double in size and no longer wrinkly. Drain, rinse well, then place in a large pot. Add 8 cups water, rosemary sprig, sage leaves, bay leaves, and chiles de arbol if using. Bring to a low simmer and cook, covered, until beans are very soft and beginning to break apart, 30 minutes to 2 hours (cooking time can vary considerably for dried beans), stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary. Remove the leaves. Set aside about 2 cups of beans, and then use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the rest of the bean mixture.

2. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture to the soup pot, along with the crushed tomatoes, dried tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the olives and kale; simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until kale is tender. Stir in the chopped herbs, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 8 servings.