A rustic, tuscan style cannellini bean stew, topped with pan seared sea bass.
By Sylvia Fountaine
Simple ingredients come together lovingly, to make this rustic, savory and deeply satisfying meal that in my mind, brings me back to rolling hills of Tuscany, where cannellini beans are a staple. For a quick weeknight meal, canned cannellini beans may be substituted in this recipe- and from start to finish, this can be made in about 30 minutes. But if so inclined, on a more leisurely day, try using dried cannellini beans, and enjoy the amazing texture these will bring to the stew.
This is the dinner I made for Brian, on Sunday, after his week long backpacking/ kayaking adventure in the North Cascades, where he happily ate dehydrated meals out of packages, yet returned home, skin and bones. With each warming bite, he seemed more and more restored, this comforting bowl of goodness, was like a soulful embrace, welcoming him back home.
Cannellini beans are large white beans, with firm texture and skin, that hold their shape in soups and stews, and have a nutty buttery flavor. I love them because, even though they are low in fat, they add a very satisfying creaminess to dishes. Sea Bass, a rich buttery fish pairs exceptionally well with the stew, and although it can be quite pricey, it’s worth the splurge. Other options include Alaskan or True Cod, escolar, halibut, or black cod. The fish is simply seasoned – with a bit of salt and pepper, then seared in olive oil.
If using dried cannellini beans, remember to soak them in a bowl of ample water the night before, which will greatly improve their digestibly, and lessen their cooking time. They will double in size.
If using dried cannellini beans ( versus canned) , read the recipe instructions carefully, remembering not to add the tomatoes and salt until the final simmering stage. This prevent the skins from getting too tough.
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 Cup peeled, diced carrot ( 2 carrots)
- 1 Cup diced celery ( 2 stocks)
- 3-4 smashed and rough chopped garlic cloves
- 2 Cups diced tomatoes ( or one 1 can diced)
- 3 Cups cannellini beans ( 2 Cans rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ C dried and soaked overnight)
- 4 Cups chicken Stock
- 1-2 Cups water, depending on if using canned or dried beans
- 2 Tablespoons fresh sage ( or thyme, or rosemary)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
- 4 four ounce sea bass fillets ( or thick-cut true cod, escolar, halibut, black cod)
- oil, salt and pepper for fish
- Italian parsley for garnish
- In a medium -large heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, and stir for two minutes. Add carrots, celery and garlic, turn heat to medium and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using canned beans, add them, along with stock,1 C water, herbs and tomatoes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
- Alternatively, if using dried beans, make sure to soak them in ample water, overnight or up to 24 hours. (This will prevent gastric issues and shorten cooking time. ) After the carrots, celery and garlic have been sautéing for 5 minutes. Add the dried, soaked beans and the stock. Add 2 additional cups water. Add the herbs, but do not salt yet, and do not add the tomatoes yet. Bring to a boil on high heat. Cover, turn to low heat and let simmer 2 hours. Then add the salt, pepper and tomatoes. Continue simmering another ½ hour. If the stew is too brothy for you, leave the lid off and keep it at a gentle simmer, letting it reduce a bit. However, I really enjoy it brothy.
- Heat 1-2 T olive oil in a cast-iron skillet, over medium high-heat. Pat dry fish with paper towels and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Sear each side until a golden crust forms on the fish, and turn heat down to cook through to desired done-ness, taking care not to over cook.
- Place the stew in a wide shallow bowl, top with seared fish and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.