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This soup just makes me feel so virtuous! October 28, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in random stuff.
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Really, it does.  I mean, it’s healthy, and it makes good use of my garden, so it’s cheap frugal, and it’s tasty besides!  Now I ask you, where is the bad?
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Pay no attention to the tomatoes in this photo.  I made this soup last week, and we still had a few tomato hangers-on.  Those couple eventually became part of my lunch later in the week.

But what I did have – and still do have – is plenty of Swiss chard.  You know, I had never had chard up until a few years ago – “greens” just weren’t part of my  Midwestern meat-and-potatoes upbringing.  I kind of think of Swiss chard as a “gateway green” – they’re a bit heartier than spinach (which, let’s face it, is practically as tender as lettuce!), but they’re nowhere near the hard-core green-i-ness of, say, kale or collards.  Plus, they’re related to beets, which is a definite plus in my book, though the only resemblance appears to be the bright, rosy stems.  If, that is, you’ve got the red chard.

So I skipped on out the the garden for a bunch of chard.

Now before you get all worried (the way Peeps did), I’ll have you know that I am capable of practicing vegetable moderation!  A “bunch” of chard, in this case, was just under a pound.  I didn’t even need a bowl, bag, or laundry basket to carry it in!

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Oh, but even before the chard-picking, I cooked the beans.

Again, random beans were not part of my casserole-with- potato-chip-topping background.  Baked beans, sure, and the occasional kidney bean, when we had chili (seldom), but that was about it.  Oh, and “garbanzo beans” once salad bars became the All The Rage.

But regardless, with the exception of the Great Northerns, I don’t think I’d ever even had a non-canned bean until I met Peeps.

I know, shameful.

Do you have ANY IDEA what a difference it makes to cook your own beans, versus canned ones?

Freshly cooked beans don’t have all that slimy goop – you don’t have to rinse them, and you can add your own salt (or whatever).

And now that I’ve discovered Cooking Beans In The Pressure Cooker, I may never open a can again!

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Meanwhile, I cleaned and chopped the chard – cleaning is, of course, your basic sink full of fresh water, soak, swish, and inspect for dirt and bugs.

I removed the tougher stems and ribs and composted them.  If I were going to just saute the greens, of course I would chop up the stems, cook them a bit first, then add the leaves.  But since I’m making soup, I just wanted the leaves.

So first, the leaves got stacked up, then I sliced them into ribbons, about 3/4 of an inch wide, maybe an inch, I don’t know.  Small enough so, once they shriveled up in the soup, they’d fit nicely on a spoon.  How’s that?

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So finally.  I’m ready to start making actual soup!

I start with a quart plus a pint of chicken stock (6 cups) – lovely, homemade chicken stock, if at all possible.   And to that stock, I add a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind – you know, the hard, inedible part of the hunk of cheese.

You know, I’d always assumed that buying chunks of actual Parmigiano-Reggiano was something of an indulgence, and I don’t know, maybe it is.  But here’s what I’ve found.  I’ve found that grating the cheese myself (as compared to the pre-grated stuff) is so much more flavorful that I use much less.  That, and I actually know what’s in it: cheese.  So, I try to keep a wedge of either Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano in the fridge for finishing pasta and other dishes.  Plus, of course, there are always a couple of rinds in the freezer – you don’t use them often, but when you want them, you’re glad you have them!

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So just let the soup-plus-cheese rind simmer for a bit – maybe 20-30 minutes.  The broth won’t actually taste cheesy, really, but it’ll just be richer.  And a rich broth is a happy broth!  Once you fish out the cheese find, you’ll want to add your drained beans (remember them?), then dump the chard on top.

You may have to add it in batches – I did.  Just put as much into the pot as will easily fit, and as the greens on the bottom start to wilt, you can add more and stir them in.  Soon – within 10 minutes or so – your greens should be wilted about to the level of the liquid.

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Say, remember that tomato pesto I made the other day?

Yeah, this was why.  I had everything I needed, right at my fingertips, except the pesto.  And gee, now I have that too!  Heh.

And once the chard cooked down, and the beans were heated through, it was simply a matter of adding 1/4 cup of tomato pesto – and that’s it, soup was done!

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Well, it was done once we checked for seasonings, anyway – a bit of salt and pepper, and we’re good.

To serve, we ladled into bowls (2 for dinner, one for lunch the next day, and one in the freezer for a future lunch), sprinkled a bit of freshly-grated parm, and passed the fresh bread.

This soup was adapted from this recipe from Food & Wine – not a lot of changes, mainly the use of freshly cooked beans (highly recommend), homemade pesto, and slightly extended cooking times.  Oh, and a sprinkle of cheese at the end.

You can’t go wrong with a sprinkle of cheese, now can you?

 

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