Sausage Bean Stew for the Spring Doldrums

This easy recipe was a crowd pleaser at Flavors of the Valley on April 10, 2016. Nancy made 20 batches in five Crock Pots to sample to about 1,000 attendees that day! (In case you missed it, we also served samples of quick kimchi. I (Bethany) made five gallons of it the day before!)

I didn’t snag a bite of the Sausage Bean Stew during the event, but fortunately had a bowlful when Nancy made a test batch earlier in the week. It’s delicious!

I find April a tough time of year in the Upper Valley for eating local and healthy. I always freeze and preserve food in the summer, but at this time of year, the freezer looks pretty lean. I’m antsy for new local vegetables, and already ate my week’s worth of farmers’ market spinach. Plus the weather’s weird, and Daylight Savings came too early. All this is to say that I’m not really in the mood to put a lot of energy into a meal.

That’s why Sausage Bean Stew is perfect for early spring doldrums – it’s hearty and warm, yet bright and fresh, and best of all, so easy! The recipe calls for canned fire-roasted tomatoes, but if you canned or froze your own tomatoes, use those up, since summer’s on its way. You can get the garlic, onion, sausage, and dried beans at the winter farmers’ markets.

NOTE: don’t use red kidney beans in this recipe, as I explain later.

Sausage & Bean Stew
adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces dried white beans (navy, cannellini, etc. picked over and rinsed)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage links (2 links)
One 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan and crusty bread, for serving

 

Photo (62)

Directions:

Spread the onions over the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker and top with the carrots, garlic, white beans, thyme bundle and sausage links. Mix the diced tomatoes with the broth and 3 cups water and pour over the sausages.

Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours; the beans will be tender and begin to fall apart. Uncover the slow cooker, remove and discard the thyme bundle and transfer the sausage links to a cutting board. Stir the pasta into the stew and continue to cook, covered, until the pasta is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Cut the sausages into bite-size pieces and add back into the stew along with the parsley and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top and crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

Notes:

Choose your beans wisely: all raw or under-cooked beans contain a small amount of a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that causes gastrointestinal distress. Red kidney beans contain more of this toxin than other beans, and since many slow cookers don’t reach the temperature needed to break down the toxin, it’s best to keep red kidneys out of the slow cooker.

Boost flavor with Parmesan rind: If you have it, add a 4 ounce chunk of Parmesan rind to the pot in the beginning and discard with the herbs at the end.

Use up leftover pasta: Substitute leftover pasta (or rice!) for the uncooked pasta by reducing the water by 1 cup and adding 1 cup of cooked pasta with the sausages at the end.

Bean, Green & Grain Salad

We’ve talked about cooking with grains in the past. If you don’t recall, here is a chart of how to cook 10 common grains for your reference.

September_Handout-2

And cooking dried beans was another past topic in the post on RAFL’s Everyday Cehf titled A Beginner’s Guide to Dried Beans.

beans
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What I love about this recipe is that everything is interchangeable. Use the grains, beans and type of greens that you like most or have on hand – it doesn’t matter.

Serve it hot or cold, as a side or main dish, vegetarian or chock full of bacon. (If you go the bacon route try a maple smoked variety – adds some amazing flavor.) It’s all up to what you like and want to do. And in the end, you can even top it with your preferred dressing.

bacon1


Bean, Green & Grain Salad

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main dish

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter or oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces of spinach or other spring greens
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or your favorite bean variety
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or your favorite grain variety

If using bacon: Heat a skillet on medium heat and add chopped bacon. Fry until golden brown, then remove bacon with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel, keeping the bacon drippings in the pan.

If not using bacon: Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.

Add onions and mushrooms to the pan and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and
spinach and stir for 2-3 minutes, until spinach is wilted down.

Add in beans and quinoa. Turn off heat and stir in bacon (if used). Serve as a main entree or side dish. Dress with your favorite dressing for extra flavor, if desired.

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Kale and Bean Stew

I’ve been enjoying this recipe for years! It is a hearty and delicious vegetarian stew that can easily be the star of the table!

Kale

Cannellini and Kale Ragoût
courtesy of Epicurious.com

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 1 1/2-inch-thick slices Italian bread, crusts removed, each slice quartered
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tea
spoon dried crushed red pepper
5 cups (packed) thinly sliced kale (about 1 large bunch)
1 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion in juice
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained

preparation

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bread and 1 teaspoon thyme; cook until bread is golden on both sides, turning with tongs, about 2 minutes total. Transfer croutons to bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add remaining 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper to same pot; sauté over medium heat 30 seconds. Add kale and broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, beans, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle ragout into shallow bowls. Top with croutons and serve.

White Bean Soup

Having worked in kitchens for several years, Randal Smathers knows how to make a proper soup and has some really great tips to share:

  • Always, always saute veggies well before adding stock or water.
  • Taste the stock alone for flavor. If it’s thin, canned tomato products, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, wine, lemon juice, leftover mashed potatoes, herbs or even herbal tea (lemon zinger works well and is vegan-friendly) can bolster a stock.
  • Seasoned yogurt adds flavor and creaminess, especially to plain broths and tomato soups.
  • Adding fresh, finely chopped vegetables to a hot stock just before serving restores color and a little texture to a too-uniform soup.
  • Soups store and reheat well, but if you’re going to store a noodle soup, cook and store the noodles separately or they will balloon up and soak up the stock (barley and rice less so). Always reseason soup after reheating. The flavors tend to blend but also mellow.

At a recent EDC cooking demo Randal discussed this white bean soup as well as a winter squash and leek and potato. While his methods are authentic, they do require a slightly greater time commitment than some of our other recipes. However, much of the cooking is unattended – making this and soups in general, great weekend cooking.

White Bean Soup

1-1 1/2 pounds dried Kenearly beans from Yoder Farm or other yellow/white bean
2 pounds ham hocks or ham bone
3 medium onions
1 stick celery
1 leek
2 cloves garlic
4 carrots
Oil
Pepper
Bay leaf
3 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 pound Wallingford Locker bacon ends (optional)

Soak the beans in cold water with baking soda for at least 6 hours (overnight is better).
Drain beans, cover with fresh cold water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just soft (about an hour), stirring occasionally. Drain cooked beans.

Boil ham hocks in a large pot with one onion (halved), one carrot, the bay leaf, half a dozen peppercorns and the celery. DO NOT ADD SALT. This can simmer for 2-3 hours, adding water just to cover bones as needed. Strain stock and let cool. Pick any meat off of the bones, discarding the fat. If you are preparing this in advance, you can cool the stock in the fridge or freezer and skim and discard the congealed fat.

Meanwhile, roughly chop remaining onions and carrots and leek. Smash garlic.

In your biggest, heaviest pot, saute vegetables thoroughly. If you are adding bacon, cut to 1/4 inch dice and saute it with the vegetables. Add the meat from the bones. Add beans and ham stock. Simmer until beans are mostly broken down and the soup has thickened. Add fresh water, stock, or the water the beans cooked in to thin soup as needed (be aware: the bean water will darken the light soup).
Taste, then season with pepper and salt if needed. If you added extra bacon, you should not need more salt.