Monday, January 4, 2010

Cannellini Bean Puree with Barley

This is the second puree soup recipce, or Vellutata, I have taken from my new La Cucina Italiana subscription.

The beauty of the cauliflower puree from last week and this Cannellini Bean Puree is the simplicity and velvety texture of the soup, combined with an additional textured food spooned on top to serve.  In this case, the silky smooth cannellini puree is topped with herbed barley. 

The soup is delicious, hearty, comforting and healthy.  It was also my first time using dried beans instead of canned (can you believe I have never used dried beans before?).  The difference was measurable and even my husband, who has pooh-poohed the idea of using dried beans in the past, is a convert.

I made it last night and reheated some tonight after a big glass of fresh vegetable juice as part of my revamped eating plan to kick of 2010!  Cannellini are very high in folate and iron and a good source of non-meat protein. 


2 cups dried cannellini
1 slice of onion
1/4 cup pearled barley
2 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mixed herbs, I used parsley, basil and oregano
sea salt
white pepper
black pepper to taste

Place the beans in a pot.  Cover with cold water by 3 inches and let sit overnight.

Drain beans.  Add 5 cups of cold filtered water and the onion.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until beans are very tender, adding water if needed to keep the beans covered.  I ended up cooking mine about 1 hour 15 minutes and adding another 2 cups of water overall.

Meanwhile, bring about 4 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add barley, reduce heat to med-low and simmer until tender, approximately 45 minutes.  Drain.

When the beans are tender, transfer in batches to a blender and carefully puree until smooth.**(see note).

Pour the pureed beans through a fine mesh sieve and with a rubber spatula, push the puree through the sieve, leaving behind the bean skins which can be discarded.  While this is labor intensive the result is a perfectly silky smooth puree.

Return the beans to the pot, whisk in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat gently.  Season generously with salt and white pepper.  I used white pepper to keep the pristine white color.  At this point you may need to add more water to thin soup.  My soup was very thick and definitely needed water.  When eating leftovers I added additional water prior to reheating.

In a large skillet heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil over med-high heat.  Add the barley and garlic clove and cook while stirring about 2 minutes.  Add the herbs and cooking another minute or so.  Remove from the heat, discard the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and spoon barley on top.  Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper.

**I've learned my lesson pureeing hot liquids.  First of all, start small!  The first time I ever tried to puree a soup in my blender I filled the blender to the top and almost got sprayed the second I turned it on.  Pureeing in several small batches, while a hassle, is much easier than cleaning puree off your kitchen walls.  Secondly, remove the plastic cap from the lid and instead, hold a dish towel over the hole.  The hot air can blow the plastic cap right off if you're not careful. 

I know I waxed pontific about the virtues of the immersion blender for the cauliflower puree.  In this instance, since we want to separate the bean skins from the puree, using the blender was the best idea.

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