Thursday, January 21, 2010

White Bean and Fennel Stew

As usual I have been pondering nutrition and how to get enough calories and protein into my husband without a lot of fat. This leads me to one ingredient each time I think about it, beans. While we have been eating salads with fat free hummus and salsa a couple times each day I though we could use a few more beans so I made this white bean and fennel stew today.

I decided to combine the flavors of Sicily in a healthy stew. I used fennel and tomatoes because they are both used extensively in Sicilian cooking. All southern Italians like spicy food, which is why I added hot crushed peppers to the stew. However if you don’t like your food spicy (or you have children) red wine vinegar will add tang and acidity without heat. Here is the stew I made this afternoon for dinner tonight and the lunch the next few days.

White Bean and Fennel Stew
Makes 8 servings (approximately 2 cups each)


1 pound dried white beans, sorted and rinsed
water to cover beans by a few inches
3 bay leaves
14 ounce can tomato sauce
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large fennel bulb, finely diced (mine was 1.75 pounds), feathery fronds reserved for garnish
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes so allicin can develop)
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
12 black olives, pitted and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon of hot crushed peppers (wet hots)


Cook the white beans in water with bay leaves until they are just tender. Add the remaining ingredients until the vegetables are heated through. You want the liquid in the pot to cover the beans but not be too soupy.

Just before serving add a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar or hot crushed peppers. If you choose the red wine vinegar you can alternately add a little to the top of the soup when serving instead of stirring it into the pot.

Garnish each serving with a fennel frond and serve hot. If desired you can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on each serving for flavor.

Nutritional Information (assumes you used the red wine vinegar option):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 226.71
Calories From Fat (5%)  - 11.33

Total Fat - 1.32g
Saturated Fat - 0.23g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 621.44mg
Potassium - 1320.54mg
Total Carbohydrates - 41.48g
Fiber - 10.36g
Sugar - 3.89g
Protein - 14.7g


This is a very light tasting and healthy stew. The fennel flavor is very prominent in this stew. It is also very low in fat but contains a nice amount of protein in each serving. As with all stews the flavor will improve as the soup sits and the flavors have time to marry.

Each serving of this stew contains 420IU of vitamin A, 175mg of calcium, and 7mg of iron. More importantly than that it includes 14g of protein and 10g of fiber.

Unrelated Notes:

Somehow I have managed to spend half my day on the phone today. I don’t know how that happens (but it often does). I guess I should just admit that I like to chat and accept it as part of who I am.

Today was a yoga day for me and I feel very calm and relaxed now. I really love yoga and its ability to remove all my stress. Too bad you can’t bottle this feeling. Oh, I guess they have but I don’t think it is legal. ;)

I still need to write the post about dinner last night, which was fabulous. We had a great time with Phil. He is always such a pleasure to be around. It is such a shame we don’t live closer. Dan and I both always enjoy Phil’s company.

For now I need to figure out what else I am making for dinner tonight and then go get it started. I will be back later.


  1. I love bean soup! I will be trying this one...

  2. Mary,

    Bean soup is great during the fall and winter isn't it? I love a big bowl of bean stew on a cold dreary day like I am having today. I hope you like this as much as I do.


  3. Mmmm...sounds delicious! I love bean stews!

  4. Anna,

    I think it is a good one from both a taste and health perspective. I hope you enjoy it too.


  5. Hey Alicia - I can spend hours on end on the phone with my mom and sis. My hubby makes fun b/c we call many times during the day. Your stew sounds fabulous, just not sure about the fennel. I really hate liquorish and have always heard that's what fennel tastes like. thoughts?

  6. Heather,

    Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in the chatting department. ;)

    My hubby hates licorice candy (I am not too fond of it either) but loves fennel. When the fennel is raw it does have a mild licorice taste and definite licorice aroma. But when it is cooked the flavor mellows and no longer tastes like licorice. When cooked it tastes more like celery to me. I love fennel both raw and cooked but the flavors are very different. I hope that helped.


  7. Alicia, that really does help honestly. I have completely avoided all recipes that call for fennel. And oddly, that's a lot!

  8. Heather,

    Glad I could help. I think the flavor of cooked fennel is so mild that it will surprise you. Fingers crossed that I am right.

    talk to you later,

  9. Dear Alicia, We all love soups at out house. Your white Bean and Fennel Stew looks awesome and inviting. I like it spicy as well.Indian cooking has a lot of similarities with Italian cooking I guess. I must say I have'bt really used fresh fennel though. We normally have fennel seeds which are eaten after meals as they help in digestion and are an excellent mouth freshner.
    Also good to know you and your husband had a good time with ur visiting friend. One more thing Alicia,..I must confess that even I could talk for hours on the phone..mostly to my mom, sister as they are far away..I don't get to meet them often except when I visit them during the summer break. Also proud of you for Your Yoga..I keep procrastinating..Eventually one day will begin doing it.

  10. Dolly,

    Soup is something I eat almost everyday. I love that it reheats and stores so well.

    I agree there are many similarities between Indian and Italian food. My best friend in college was from Madras. Her mom taught me to cook Indian food almost 30 years ago. It is still my favorite, after Italian of course. ;)

    I love using fresh fennel in place of celery (which is a very Italian thing to do). It adds a similar flavor to dishes.

    Talking seems to be a girl thing. My husband doesn't get it but I think almost all women can lose hours on the phone without much effort. Sorry you don't get to see your family that often. That must be hard.

    Yoga is great when you need to relax. It can be physically difficult but not in the same way as other forms of exercise. At least not the way I like to do it. I enjoy yoga a great deal. Today I will be doing step aerobics, pilates and yoga. Not exactly relaxing. But it will end well.


  11. That looks like a great soup! We eat a lot of bean dishes here too.
    I am so with you on the yoga, I just started doing some over the last month, and really enjoy it. It makes you feel amazing:)

  12. Janet,

    Thanks! :) We liked the soup and it was simple.

    So glad I am not alone on the yoga. I do it to relax and get stretched out. My husband can't imagine why I like it. He has tried it, but is so tight it is apparently painful. I keep encouraging him to do it but he isn't interested.

    talk to you later,

  13. This sounds like a delicious bean stew...and, thanks to your reminders, I'm starting to remember to chop my alliums and let them sit for at least 10 before using.

  14. Your bean stew looks and sounds so healthy and tasty! I've never tried eating or cooking fennel before, I'm not sure how my family will like it but it sounds really good to me.

  15. Oraphan,

    Thanks! The soup is very easy to make, like most stews. Raw fennel and cooked fennel have different tastes. When fennel is raw it tastes similar to licorice (the candy). However, when it is thoroughly cooked the licorice flavor dissipates and the overall flavor becomes very mellow. When well cooked I don't think the flavor of fennel is strong enough for anyone to dislike. Fingers crossed that I am correct.

    talk to you later,

  16. Thanks, Alicia! I'll definitely try cooking with fennel very soon and will let you know how we like it!


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