We rode bikes in Virginia in the Autumn. Three small children in tow.....those little child seats on the back of each bike with the boys on our bikes and little Miss M on her own small bike. This was our family ritual. Virginia was gorgeous in the Autumn and we took full advantage of the season. There was much history to explore also....especially up around Williamsburg. But cold,,,,,oh yes....very cold indeed. It never seemed to me that Virginia was southern.....it seemed more Yankee.....the accent and all. We only lived there for one year, but it was a beautiful state. Windsor Woods....that was where we lived and we planted Marigolds in the Fall season...
However, it will forever be Maine that holds the place in our hearts during Autumn...the beauty is unmatched. We had our own private woodlands....I considered it to be the safe sanctuary of all the animals that came.....no harm would come to them....they were safe and they were loved......we miss that....
There were several times during the month of September that we would be sitting on the deck having a glass of wine, wrapped in our cardigans and talking to the children.....we would say..."It's fall here....about 50 degrees and there is vegetable stew simmering on the stove...wish you were here"...they would reply..."it's still in the 90's down here in Tejas....wish we were there too..come home...."and we did...we came home.....it was our blessing....our final move.
3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 ½ cups water, divided
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 cups vegetable broth
2 medium bay leaves
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 medium bunch kale (about 1 pound),
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
1 loaf Italian bread
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Cover dried porcini mushroom pieces with 1/2 cup hot tap water in small microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife and microwave on high power, 30 seconds. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Lift mushrooms from liquid with fork and mince using chef’s knife. Strain liquid through fine-mesh strainer lined with paper towels into medium bowl. Set mushrooms and liquid aside.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining 4 cups water, broth, bay leaves, soaked beans, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and reserved mushrooms and mushroom liquid. Increase heat to high and bring stew to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove pot from oven and stir in tomatoes and kale. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, the stew over toasted bread, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and lightly drizzled with olive oil.