Any chance I have to make soup, I do. The soup season here in the desert is short, to say the least. What’s the old phrase? Make hay while the sun shines? Well, I make soup while the sun doesn’t shine. Or, at least when it doesn’t shine so intensely.
This last week has been an amazingly cold, freakishly wintry stretch of weather. Oh, I know we’re not buried in 19 inches of the white stuff. But we’ve had frost, freeze advisories, and frozen fountains. My winter wear of choice is a toasty, down-filled Patagonia beauty. I generally wear it twice a year: once during our Michigan adventure after Christmas, and once if we head to the mountains in northern and/or eastern Arizona to get in some sledding or skiing. I had never, until this last week, worn it in The Valley of the Sun.
If that’s not soup making weather, I don’t know what is. I found this recipe in the New York Times about a year ago. It is probably the heartiest, healthiest, most comforting bowl of soup I’ve ever made. The original recipe doesn’t call for rice, but the rice bulks it up a bit and gives it a stew-like quality. Also, I used red swiss chard which gave my broth a deeper, richer color. And, although the original recipe called for 2 quarts of water, I subbed in 2 quarts of chicken stock. To keep it a purely vegetarian meal, use water or vegetable stock.
This recipe is sure to satisfy your belly on a cold winter day and warm you from the inside out. Enjoy!
White Beans with Swiss Chards and Rice
(Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, Recipes for Health)
- 3/4 pound Swiss chard (1 small bunch)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound (1 1/8 cups) white beans, washed and picked over
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Parmesan rind (optional but recommended)
- 1 cup rice (I used a Texmati blend)
- Freshly ground pepper
- A few drops of fresh lemon juice (optional)
1. Stem the Swiss chard, and wash both the stems and the leaves in at least two changes of water until thoroughly clean. Dice the stems if they’re wide, and set aside. Stack the leaves and cut in wide ribbons or chop coarsely. Set aside separately from the stems.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion and diced chard stems. Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, about five minutes. Add half the garlic, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Add the beans, bay leaf, Parmesan rind (tie the bay leaf and rind together with a kitchen string to make retrieval easier) and 2 quarts chicken stock. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Add the remaining garlic and salt to taste, and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender.
3. Add the rice and pepper, and simmer 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir in the chard leaves, and simmer another five to 10 minutes until the chard is tender but still bright. The mixture should be soupy but thick. Season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice — 2 to 3 teaspoons — if desired, and serve in wide soup bowls.