Tomato, Fennel, and White Bean Stew

Here is an incredible stew that is delicious any time of the year!
The original recipe came from a canadian cookbook handed down to me by my Grandfather. It become a bit tweaked over time and I've been known to swap ingredients in it to suit what I have in my fridge but here it is in a more or less pure state.
The versatility of this stew is in the ingredients. In the summer I make it from fresh tomatoes while in the winter I stick to canned. In the summer I top it with fresh basil whereas this time of the year I garnish with fennel fronds. For lunch I eat it with a slice of crusty bread. For dinner I serve it atop pearl barley for a more filling dish. Plus if your looking for a good way to use up extra cranberry beans, you're in luck here.

Ingredients (Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook): 
  • 5 tomatoes, diced OR one 32 oz can whole tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced
  • 2 medium red skin desiree potatoes cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared white beans of any variety
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3 TBL olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil or fennel fronds for garnish

1. Saute the diced leeks in olive oil for 7 minutes over medium heat until soft.

2. Toss in the minced garlic and saute 1 minute until fragrant.

3. Season the softened leeks with the thyme and fennel seed and about a tsp of salt.

4. Stir in the sliced fennel, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes (plus juice if using canned). Pour in your vegetable stock and mix well.

5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes until potatoes begin to soften. The tomatoes will release their juices and the stew will turn a vibrant red orange.

6. Uncover and stir in the white wine. Taste the stew and add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

The beauty of stew is that it sits somewhere between a soup and a saute. The result of this stew will be a hearty vibrant mix of protein, starch, and wonderful flavors in a bright oily savory broth. Garnish with basil or fennel fronds and enjoy on a rainy afternoon or a chilly evening.

This stew also freezes wonderfully. Allow it to cool completely before freezing it in marked containers for next weeks lunch.

Serves 4-6

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