I love everything about Tuscany and this soup is a great reminder.  I found it on the Saveur Recipe website.  It has such a hearty appeal so I couldn’t resist to share it with all.

Maybe it was the crunchy bit of bread to the side or the bits of tomato and carrot popping up to the surface.  Can’t wait to give it a try.  If you beat me to it, let me know what you think.

Image by André Baranowski

2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
1⁄2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic (3 minced, 1 halved)
10 oz. squash, such as butternut, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes(about 2 cups)
4 large kale leaves, preferably
 lacinato or cavalo nero, stemmed and chopped
1 medium waxy-style potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
crushed fennel seeds
8 thick slices country-style bread

1. Drain beans and transfer to a 3-qt. saucepan along with half the carrots, the celery, the onions, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 40–45 minutes. Set 3⁄4 cup beans aside; transfer the remaining beans and their cooking liquid to a blender and purée. Set puréed beans aside.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 5-qt. pot over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add reserved bean purée, along with the remaining carrots, the squash, kale, potato, and 1 cup water. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the crushed fennel seeds and reserved whole beans. Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the cut end of the halved garlic clove. Drizzle each toast with 1 tbsp. oil. To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with remaining oil.

Credits:  Author Nancy Harmon Jenkins uses olive oil three ways in this version of the venerable Italian soup: for sautéing garlic, rubbing on the toasts that accompany the dish, and finishing the soup.

This sweet and savory stuffed mushroom appetizer is made with ground sweet Italian sausage, goat cheese & chopped Calimyrna figs.  For a little extra eye appeal they’ve been topped them with slivered almonds.

Fresh Calimyrna figs  are definitely my preference over the darker variety fig as they have a milder flavor that doesn’t over power the other ingredients.  The tastes of this stuffed mushroom will burst with variety of sweet and savory flavors that seem to crunch and pop out individually.

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You can easily substitute golden delicious apples and feta cheese for figs and goat cheese if not available.  Sometimes you can find dried figs packaged on the same aisle in the grocery as where you find raisins.

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Almost without fail, when I have a dinner party or a gathering  for a fun cocktail hour evening, I will serve this appetiser.  It’s a great one to mix up for your friends and to get your friends to mix together.  Sometimes, a Bruschetta is served with the tapanade already on the bread.

I like to serve mine with toasted baquette and the Bruschetta on the side so the bread does not get soggy.  Hate soggy bread for some reason.

So, if you like to have the tapenade flavor mix into the bread, then feel free to serve the toasties already topped.  The difference though is that your friends may just load their plate and not mingle as much around the appetiser table.  There are a couple of other appetisers in the feature image; Stuffed Mushrooms.  One is a Stuffed Mushrooms with Sweet Italian Sausage, Goat Cheese & Figs and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms with Water Chestnuts.  Look for these in the future.

This baquette toastie is different from most that I have tried because it is a nice appetiser all on it’s own.  It has a robust flavor that is enhanced by the Bruschetta.  You can use this baquette recipe for almost any tapenade.  Enjoy… from KCinAZ.

Ingredients

Bruschetta Topping:   Baguette:
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil 1  pound French bread Baguette
1  tablespoon Champagne Wine vinegar 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2  cloves garlic, peeled; chopped 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Salt
3  large Tomatoes; chopped  Italian seasoning to taste
12  sprigs Basil; chopped 1/4 cup Asiago Cheese shredded
Salt; To taste

Preparation

Remove seeds and pulp from tomatoes and then dice into small pieces.  Mix together tomatoes, chopped or minced garlic cloves, olive oil, Champagne wine vinegar, chopped basil, salt and pepper and set aside to serve at table.

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Slice French bread baguette into 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices; your choice depending on the crowd.  Place on flat baking dish like a heavy cookie pan.  Brush top of each slice with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic salt and lightly top with shredded Asiago Cheese on each bread slice.  Place under hot broiler and cook on BROIL until lightly browned.

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If you don’t have Asiago Cheese on hand, feel free to substitute fresh shredded Parmesan.  It will still be great!

Makes 12 servings.

For a refreshing summertime appetizer, fill bite-size cherry tomatoes, round or pear shaped, with a savory mixture of cream cheese flavored with basil. Minced tarragon or chervil can be used in place of the basil.

Original Yield: 24  Main Ingredient: Cream Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes
Ingredients:

24 Cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound Cream cheese; regular in tub
2 tablespoons Half-and-half cream
1/4 cup Fresh basil; minced
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper; freshly ground
1 package Fresh parsley
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Instructions:

Chop or mince basil into small pieces especially if you are going to use an icing tube to fill the tomatoes with the cream cheese mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, 1 tablespoon half-n-half, basil, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork or spatula until well blended. Continue to add last tablespoon of half-n-half slowly until desired consistency is met. Allow to come to room temperature as you prepare the tomatoes. This will allow for an easier time when filling the tomato shells with the icing tube as the cream cheese comes to room temperature.

Remove the top of each tomato with a serrated knife and trim if necessary to flatten the bottom. While having tomato still in hand, attempt to remove as much pulp as possible and discard. Save tomato tops for garnish.   Turn  tomato upside down on an paper towel to help in absorbing the juices. After all tops have been removed and this first step is complete then move on to the next step. The messy part is mostly over.

Using a small spoon or small mellon baller scoop out any remaining inside pulp to make a hollow yet sturdy shell. Set each shell open side up on serving dish. Garnish with parsley sprigs to help keep tomatoes in place.

Using the small spoon, fill each tomato with about 1 tsp. of the cheese mixture.

If you can use a cake decorating tube, then you can also use this to fill the tomatoes and create a pleasant swirl. You will need to add enough half-n-half so that the consistency is like frosting. Pick a large enough tube end so that the basil does not get stuck.

To finish off the platter, fill a center dish with extra or leftover basil cream cheese.  Place tomato trim tops around the inside of the bowl and add additional parsley for garnish.  If you have leftover room on you platter, fill it with cucumber slices, crackers, sweet garden peas or any other food that would go great with the cream cheese.    I used the tomato tops around the inside of the center bowl that contained extra filling.  If you do not use an icing tube to fill the tomatoes, you can use the little tops to garnish each filled tomato.   Sprinkle a little parsley over the entire platter for a final finish.