Our spring this year has been very dreary. And cold. And cloudy. Actually that is pretty typical, I think. We get one sunny day and I am nearly manic — excited to exercise and clean and parent with limitless energy. But then we have to endure at least three cloudy and cold days because of it. So I get a little taste of nice weather and then it is snatched away, which sometimes feels worse than if it were never here at all. These are soup days.
I was inspired today by leftovers from Easter — a ham bone with some meat remaining, the greens from my Kohlrabi and Radish Slaw, and a veggie drawer that was overflowing with aromatics. I have to tread very carefully with this sort of soup, because my daughter insists that she hates beans (all forms of white, black, and red beans). If I tell her we are making it with lima beans (dried ones which taste almost identically to any white bean), she’s cool. So that’s where I started.
This is a fully made-from-scratch soup and takes about two hours start to finish. However, I should add that most of this time is unattended. Trust me, I was outside chasing the boy out of the mud, having impromptu playdates, and attempting to get the girl to practice the piano. (I should also mention that you could certainly make the broth and cook the beans ahead of time which would leave you with less than an hour to just make the soup.)
The best part of this soup is that it reveals a kitchen secret: you don’t need to soak dried beans. I have spent the last 15 years of my life thinking I could never use dried beans because I hadn’t soaked them. It’s not true! You can simply simmer them for about an hour and you are good to go.
And as usual, take liberties based on what you have available. Use more beans if you like to make it heartier (you can even pull some out and mash them at the end to thicken the soup) or add a bit of heavy cream to make it richer. Most importantly, enjoy with a nice glass of vino and hold out hope that the strange, bright orb in the sky might reappear tomorrow.
Rustic Ham, Bean, and Spring Green Soup
Serves 6 with leftovers
Step 1: Make the broth and cook the beans
(Takes about 1 hr, mostly unattended. Prep your veggies for step two at some point during this cooking process.)
1 Ham Bone or Ham Hock (preferably naturally smoked/no nitrates from a local source)
1 onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 stalks of celery, cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 t sea salt
Combine all of the above in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and let cook for about one hour. When finished, strain stock into a colander set over a large bowl to catch the stock while separating out the veggies/bones. If there is meat remaining on the bone, you can pick it off and set it aside. (Discard cooked veggies.)
1 cup of dried white beans (we used Limas, could use any kind and up to 2 cups if you want more beans)
4-5 cups of cold water (more if using more beans)
1 clove garlic, smashed
Freshly Ground Pepper
1 T rosemary
1 bay leaf
While broth is coming to a boil, put beans and other ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until tender. Remove from heat and allow to remain in cooking liquid until ready to make soup (if cooking up way ahead of time, remove from cooking liquid.) When ready to make soup, strain beans.
Step 2: Make the Soup
(Takes about 45 minutes, mostly unattended)
1 large onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup of Sherry
White beans (about 2 cups or more, cooked from above)
Ham Broth (6-8 cups, cooked from above)
2 cups of shredded/chopped ham
3-4 cups of chopped cooking greens (we used Kohlrabi and Radish greens, could use spinach or just about anything else)
Sea Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper, Cayenne Pepper (if you like)
Croutons for garnish (bread cubes toasted in a saute pan with butter, salt, and herbs)
1. Saute onions and garlic in a large stock pot or dutch oven in a bit of olive oil or butter over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes until they begin to soften and brown a bit. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of Sherry and stir to scrape up any browned bits and allow it to reduce for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add 6-8 cups of ham broth, cooked white beans, carrots, and celery. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or so until vegetables are softened. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne if you like (if your soup is not tasting right, it usually just needs salt — soups are salt hounds.)
3. Add in 2 cups of shredded ham and simmer 5-10 minutes more.
4. When ready to serve, stir in 3-4 cups of chopped cooking greens and cook until they are wilted. Add some freshly chopped rosemary. Taste and season more if necessary. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until soup is slightly thickened and reduced, beans are tender (but not mushy), and greens are cooked. (If you like, you can pull some of the beans out and mash or puree them and add them back into to make a heartier soup. Or add some cream for richness.)
5. To serve, ladle in large soup bowls and top with some buttered croutons. (Or nice crusty bread…)