December 10, 2007

Soup for A Rainy Winter Night

white beans and greens soup

Mondays have a tendency to chew me up and spit me out, so that when I arrive home, tired and worse for wear, I want life to feel easy. Soup, with its bare requirement of casual stirring, and its gentle steam bringing the flush back to your cheeks when you finally lean over a bowl, spoon poised, fits the bill quite nicely.

This is not only my favorite soup but my favorite kind of recipe. I call it Alchemy Cooking. The list of ingredients is so humble that I am always somewhat astonished at the flavors that burst forth in the end. Better still, the satisfaction of making something is only magnified when its beginnings are so unassuming and its final form so great.

A couple Mondays back I decided to take the the subway to the far reaches of my neighborhood. I thought some French-style exercise would do me good, and few things put me more at peace than a chance to enjoy the charms of Brooklyn. It was the perfect night for it, as this was the last sigh of mild night air before a fast descent into winter. That is, all seemed perfect as I was peeping into undraped windows when all of a sudden the sky opened up and began to rain fat drops on me and my tote filled with the ingredients for this soup.

Had this been a typical Monday, the next part of this story would involve me cursing under my breath and having thoughts that sound more than a little like violins playing. I can’t say what it was exactly that prompted me instead to put up the hood of my jacket and laugh a little at my luck and wet toes. Perhaps it was knowing I had a bottle of wine at home to warm up with, or that I knew I would soon be eating this soup, or maybe it was the burst of endorphins from scurrying along the slick residential streets. Whatever the reason, what would have been an annoying inconvenience became a serendipitous delight, and I wish I knew how to make that happen more often.

white beans and greens soup

White Beans and Greens Soup
Serves 4-6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch dark, leafy greens, such as collard greens, kale, or Swiss chard, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 15.5 ounce can white beans
6 cups chicken stock
salt, plenty of pepper, and grated parmesan

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Stir in greens and cook, uncovered, until wilted. Add chicken stock and white beans, and raise the heat to bring soup to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and serve topped with grated parmesan.

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  • Mia: The recipe sounds fantastic. I wish I had some dark green leafy veggies in my refrigerator because I would make this for dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow night instead after a quick run to the market for some kale. But I could check the garden and see if there is still and chard left.
    8 years ago

  • citta.poplin: oooohhhh! it looks so delicious. think it’s worth a try making it with veg stock and sans the parm to accommodate a vegan diet? it looks so good, i think i’m going to have to try.
    8 years ago

  • EB: Perfect, perfect timing! I was just sitting here contemplating what the hell I was going to make for dinner because all I had was a bag of onions (extras from a latke extravaganza) and a can of cannelini beans! Perfect… perfect…
    8 years ago

  • rebekka: YUM! Looks kind of like the kale and white beans with sausages I always make from Everyday Food. I have to try this!
    8 years ago

  • Sarah: Rebekka, I used to make it with sausage, but then found it didn’t really need it to be totally delicious (tho I am a huge sausage fan!)

    That said, and to citta’s point, it’s totally worth making a vegan version. The parmesan adds a lot, I think, but you might not miss it.
    8 years ago

  • Jillian: Looks fantastic! You said “add the olive oil,” but left out how much in the ingredients.
    8 years ago

  • Sarah: Whoops — a tablespoon should do it! I’ll add that to the directions. Thanks, Jillian.
    8 years ago

  • Ruth Simons: i’ve got some swiss chard and kale in the fridge–i’m making this tonight. i, too, practice “alchemy!”
    8 years ago

  • Terry B: Sounds wonderful! And if you don’t have kale or Swiss chard on hand–or if you’re in a hurry or feeling lazy–a bag of baby spinach would be just as delicious and healthy for the greens.
    8 years ago

  • renee: i guess the universe wanted you to not take things too seriously and actually enjoy a monday evening (in a weird way).

    i love when stuff like that happens and we can enjoy it. a negative mindset really does spoil things. i’m glad you changed up your routine and enjoyed it!

    go greens!
    8 years ago

  • Gina: I’ve had this post saved for weeks & finally got around to making it tonight. It was WELL worth the wait! I used kale & added a can of tomato paste, so yummy!!

    Thanks for giving me the perfect supper on this chilly winter’s eve.
    8 years ago

  • Sarah: That’s awesome, Gina, I’m so glad to hear that!
    8 years ago

  • Mary G: My Italian mom makes this soup and always called it Meneste (not sure spelling). Only she also adds cubed potatoes. Delicious!
    7 years ago

  • SB: This was excellent! I was worried it was going to be super bland but it wasn’t! I used 3 vegan “chik’n” bullion cubes, a little more garlic, and I didn’t have kale so I used a bag of fresh spinach, and no parmesan cheese but I think it was tasty without it. I didn’t add any salt or pepper, but I did add a little red pepper flakes.
    7 years ago

  • chris: I have always used Beet greens along with spinach,white wine.We’re getting beets in our garden right now,and plan on having it for dinner tonight! With or without sausage, this simple dish tastes wonderful,and it’s so good for our digestive systems.Folks that have eaten this,know what I mean.bon appetite!6 years ago

  • phil: This is an old world soup made from greens out of the garden (my grandmother used endive) or from the market. In my family it was made using small bits of good italian sausage fried in a pan first then put in a pot and water and chicken broth added (including the pan drippings), simmered with cut endive and cubed potatoes. Topped with romano cheese at the table and eatin with italian bread.
    I miss those days!5 years ago

  • Marcia Mayfield: I was introduced to this Italian ‘depression soup’ when I lived in Connecticut. Escarole, chickpeas, and leftover bits of ham or other meat. It never occurred to me to try to get the recipe from my friend Sam D’Amato (I doubted that i could cook Italian). And it never occurred to me until recently that it was not really that complex.

    Your fantastic recipe shows that is is not complicated. One word of warning — don’t overcook your greens. I had some at a restaurant recently and the greens were overcooked to the point of practically melting in your mouth — way too soft. Mangi!4 years ago

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Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -- in water, in butter and in wine.
- Polish proverb