Slow Cooker White-Bean Parmesan Soup
As we have said before, the people of the Blue Zones (the healthy, longest lived people) eat legumes as part of their diet. This soup is so good you’ll be making it over and over again. You’re bound to have a long life! You also have the added benefit of smelling it cooking all day. You can find the wheat berries at most health food store and many groceries will sell or give you the cheese rinds if you have not saved them already. (Never throw them out. They add great flavor to many soups and stews and keep indefinitely in the freezer.)
MAKES: 6 Servings
PREP/COOK TIME: 8 to 10 hours plus overnight soaking
1 pound dry cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and black pepper
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, hard rinds cut off and reserved
1 cup wheat berries
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped, fronds roughly chopped and reserved
3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2-inch thick
8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock or broth
Leaves from 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
Put the soaked, drained beans in a 5- to 8-quart slow cooker. Add the Parmesan rinds and the wheat berries.
Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season generously with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the fennel is softened and the onion is lightly browned, about 5 more minutes. Add the celery and garlic, and cook, stirring, until just softened, about 1 minute. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until combined and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rosemary and the wine and let the wine bubble until the pan is almost dry, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the mixture from the skillet into the slow cooker. Add the stock. Stir to combine, and cook on low until the wheat berries are tender and the beans are creamy, about 8 to 10 hours. (Taste the beans to make sure they are creamy; they can vary in their cooking time depending on their age.) The soup can hold well on warm for 1 to 2 additional hours.
Before serving, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and Parmesan rinds. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and reserved fennel fronds. Add salt and pepper to taste.