Wednesday, April 14, 2010

White bean and Chard soup

The backyard garden at Shadows End is off and running. My latest experiment is a patch of Swiss chard. It has germinated and seems to be doing very well so far. Hopefully, it will prosper in the Summer heat which comes all too soon to central Florida.

In the meantime, I have had my appetite piqued by some of the recipes that readers have suggested so far. This weekend I managed to find a handsome bunch at the farmer’s market and tried the sauté with garlic and a spray of lemon. Sautéing the chard with a sprinkle of olive oil was delicious and so easy. It is a vegetarian dish that really carries some oomph with it. I was amazed at how filling it was – not to mention delicious.

I am an especial lover of soups and I have had many soups that incorporate kale so I decided to try Swiss chard in one of my favorite white bean and greens recipes. I rarely use formal recipes, tending to be a pinch of this kind of cook. But, since I did call on everyone to at least try some cooking from scratch, I feel obligated to render a solid recipe.  This is a simple, elegant recipe for those of you who like a solid formula to work from. I found the recipe in a lovely book about European peasant cooking called “The Old World Kitchen

Start with some fine fresh Chard – although if you cannot find it in the market or in your garden, you can substitute kale and possibly curly spinach. Do not use any discolored or wilted leaves. Also, if your chard is very young and tender you may want to simply chop it whole and not cut the center stalks seperately.  I tend to like my greens just coarsely torn, but I include chopping instructions in the recipe.


     1 bunch of Swiss chard about 1 pound

     2 or 3 Tablespoons olive oil

     1 tablespoon minced or chopped garlic (to taste – I use 3)

     1 quart chicken stock

     1 ½ pounds cooked cannelloni beans (you can substitute any firm white bean)

     1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

     Salt and pepper to taste


1) Rinse chard well. Tear leaves from stems into coarse pieces about 2 inches. Thinly slice stems crosswise.

2) Pour oil into a 4-quart pan over medium heat. Sauté the chopped stems and garlic until tender – this should take less than 10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn or it will be bitter.

3) Add the chicken broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil.

4) Add chard and cook about 5 or 10 more minutes depending on how firm you want your leaves to be.

5) Stir in the beans and stir for 3 to 5 minutes until hot.

6) Stir in the 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

7)  Salt and pepper to taste - top off with some red pepper flakes for a kick

Serve the soup in a bowl with a little more parmesan sprinkled on top and a big hunk of crusty peasant bread to eat it with. You can also add other ingredients if you would like cooked bacon or pancetta, onions, chopped carrots and crushed tomatoes all make fine variations.  Of course, if you saved your old cheese rinds like I told you to, a 3 or 4 inch peice tossed in will be magic.  Rich hearty foods like this make simple living a hidden treasure and I think everyone should try it at least once. Self reliance is a lot easier chore with a nice bowl of soup and some crusty bread.

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