Continuing down the bean path, I am reminiscing about a trip we once took to Tuscany. We ended up eating lunch one day at a small outdoor cafe in the middle of nowhere in a town called Volpaia. No one spoke English, except Azura, our guide. We ordered several bruschetta including one with a hot chicken liver spread that is on my “last meal” dream list, and ribollita, a tuscan cabbage soup made with beans and stale bread. I was able to remember how the soup tasted and I made it here. This was my favorite meal in Italy and that probably tells you something about my food view. It’s a big rugged at times, a bit unfancy, a bit earthy. But, let me tell you something that Marcella Hazan has been telling the world for over forty years. It’s an art to get a few earthy ingredients balanced in such a way as to be loud in flavor, soft in landing. The food in the Tuscany area of Italy is especially earthy and soulful yet with centuries of understood culinary nuance.
All of that brings me to this bruschetta. The bean spread is made with cannellini beans, rosemary, sea salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon, a little heat and gets a real fix of flavor and with crispy kale and crispy prosciutto. And, the only way to eat this is atop a grilled slice of Tuscan type bread that has been rubbed with fresh garlic.
There is an art to this because I have had so many bad tasteless bean dips and bean spreads. You need a nice balance of beans, fat, acid and salt. The biggest mistake people make is overpowering the beans with too much garlic, using garlic powder or pre-peeled garlic bought in a jar. Garlic needs to be peeled fresh as it gets rancid very quickly and it will ruin any dish fast. If peeling is a pain, there is a great technique that chefs use included in my recipe. Please use a very good extra virgin olive oil, because it does matter, as does using fresh lemon.
The only way to get an earthy, rustic dish to taste good is to approach it with kid gloves. Too often, people plunge and plow into Italian cooking with fists instead of fingers.
When you serve this, serve at room temperature. If you have made it the night before, warm it up a bit in microwave. Stir it up, and perhaps add in a little drizzle of olive oil and fresh squeeze of lemon. Be sure to grill the bread and rub it with garlic.
So tell me what will you be starting your super bowl Sunday with?
Tuscan White Bean Bruschetta with Crispy Kale and Prosciutto
- 2 leaves kale ribs removed
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans see cooking method in notes
- 1 garlic cloves peeled (see method below), divided. One for beans, one for rubbing bread.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley minced
- 1 lemon for zest and juice
- sea salt
- dash red chili pepper
- Italian sour dough or other chewy tuscan type Italian bread
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Separate kale from ribs. Discard ribs.
- Spin dry kale. Toss with a tiny bit olive oil.
- Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes or until crispy, not brown. Set aside.
- Bake prosciutto at 375 for 6-10 minutes until crispy. Set aside
- Peel garlic: You can put garlic in small stainless container and place a lid and give a good shake. If you peel a lot of garlic at once, it's easier and the skins will fall off as you shake it.
- Zest lemon. Squeeze juice in a bowl.
- In a food processor, place beans, garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until mixture is smooth. You may need to adjust by adding in more olive oil.
- Grill Bread. Rub with raw garlic.
- Spread bread with beans. Top with Kale and a little prosciutto.
Place beans in cold water with about a two inch top.
Add in two smashed garlic cloves and some fresh rosemary. (do not salt)
Cook for 75 -90 minutes until beans are tender.
Drain and use for soup, spreads, dips.
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