We’ve been graced with many gorgeous, barely chilly days over the last few weeks, but the evenings are cool and I love having warm soups to eat.

Since my pantry is full of all sorts of dried beans that I don’t use nearly enough, here is a recipe for white bean stew with pumpkin and kale.

A little warning: if you use dried beans as suggested, this is not a quick stew to make. But I prefer dried beans over canned because I believe the whole soaking business makes them much more digestible (plus cans can leach undesirable chemicals).

That being said, you may substitute canned beans if you like (you’ll need 4 cups/2 cans)- you’ll skip the part about simmering the beans at the beginning of the recipe. You will start by sautéing the veggies right in your soup pot, then add the drained canned beans, pumpkin and stock, and cook for just about 30 minutes. Finish with the shallots and wine, garnish, and serve. Quick and easy, but probably not as tasty as the longer version.

Recipe for White Bean Stew with Pumpkin and Kale

adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Ingredients:

2 cups cannellini beans, soaked
2 bay leaves
1/2 white onion, stuck with 2 cloves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
*1 bunch kale, chopped
*2 cups sugar or cheese pumpkin or winter squash, chopped
*6 cups water or vegetable stock
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 shallot, minced
*1 cup dry red wine
*Himalayan or sea salt and black pepper to taste
*a little crème fraîche for garnish-optional
*minced fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, and thyme for garnish-optional

Directions:

1. Start by placing 2 cups of dried white cannellini beans in a large bowl. Cover with water and soak overnight or for at least 4 hours. Pick out any beans that have floated to the surface and then drain.

2. Put the beans in a large soup pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. Lower the heat and add the bay leaves, 1/2 onion with cloves, and parsley. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

3. While the beans are simmering, heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute over medium heat and then add the chopped celery, carrot and kale. Add a little water to the pan and then cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

4. Back to the beans: remove the onion, cloves, and bay leaves. Pour off the cooking water and and mix 1 teaspoon of salt into the cooked beans. Add the cooked vegetables and the chopped pumpkin, along with 6 cups of water or vegetable stock (chicken stock could also be used, but then obviously, it's not vegetarian). Cook over low-medium heat for another 1/2-1 hour, until the beans are quite tender (the veggies will be very soft at this point). Add a little more stock or water as needed.

5. In your skillet, melt the butter with the shallots. Cook for several minutes over medium heat, and then add the wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced by 1/2-3/4 and then add what remains to the beans. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes.

6. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche and minced herbs, if desired, and serve alone or with a big thick slice of your favorite healthy bread. Mmmm...