Vegan Tuscan Bean Stew

Tuscan bean stew is another of my mother-in-law's famous dishes. She vegan-ized a Cook's Illustrated recipe of the same name that features pancetta by substituting Bacos for that smokey flavor, and it has since become one of our favorites. What is even more amazing is that my kids have actually requested this dish (honestly we all think it is really bizarre, they ask for a bean dish with kale in it?!) If they can get past the beans, the onions, and the kale to enjoy the flavor? Well you know it must be good!

Serving this stew over bread makes it particularly satisfying. A toasted slice of sourdough adds a nice bit of complexity in both flavor and texture; we serve it right on the toast, not as accompaniment. This is a beautiful, hearty vegan dish loaded with smokey buttery beans and nutrient rich kale that sticks to your ribs and is perfect for those chilly winter months. It is also nice to serve to crowd since serving it over the bread somehow elevates it beyond a standard bean soup while the beautiful colors of the kale and tomato give the illusion of gourmet flare. 

Vegan Tuscan Bean Soup

table salt
1 lb dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 teaspoons Bacos
1 large onion, chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 cups vegetable broth, we use Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
ground black pepper

8 slices sourdough bread, each 1 1/4 inches thick, toasted and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)

  1. In a large bowl or container, add 3 tablespoons salt to 4 quarts water and stir until dissolved. Add the beans and leave them to soak overnight (8 to 24 hours) at room temperature. Soaking overnight greatly enhances the  creaminess of the beans in the final dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. 
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the Bacos and toss, immediately add onion, celery and carrots. Cook until very soft and a little browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans (drained of soaking liquid.) Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven and cook until beans are almost tender, center of bean will still be a little firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
  5. Remove from oven and add greens and tomatoes. Return to oven and cook until beans are tender, another 30-40 minutes. 
  6. Remove pot from the oven and submerge rosemary sprig in the soup. Let stand off heat for 15 minutes, then remove and discard rosemary and bay leaves. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with/over garlic toasts.