March came roaring into our neighborhood today, letting us know that the winter season is not yet done. I needed a foil to ward off the wet cold and snow, so soup is always a go-to solution. No matter what the weather, a hot steamy bowl helps push back unexpected cold and wind on March days like today. Although when the weather turns hot and humid, a nicely chilled bowl with a touch of spice—gazpacho comes to mind—can cool things down.
So today, in early March where winter continues to hang around, I am sharing a recipe that is always at the ready whenever needed to keep us warm and help us get past the end of the winter season.
This bean and greens soup recipe is not like its more complicated cousin the Pasta e Fagioli recipe posted in February 2015, but instead this simple recipe requires only a few ingredients and offers flexibility to substitute depending on what you have on hand and what is available at the market. For example, I prepared this soup using cannellini beans and young organic dandelion greens, although in the past I have used butter beans or chickpeas, escarole or spinach. You get the idea!
There is always soup stock in my freezer, although using only water will work just as well. No hard and fast rules here, just a classic example of cucina provera, combining a few basic ingredients to achieve a hearty, warming pot of soup.
Bean & Greens Soup
Ingredients (serves 4)
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 large onion, halved, sliced into thin half rounds and separated
1 bunch of greens, washed well in cold water and roughly chopped (many options)
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained (many other options)
5 cups of vegetable stock plus 4 cups of water, or just all water
Salt, pepper, and red chili flakes
Toasted bread, minced parsley, grated cheese, olive oil to finish
Tear several thick slices of a rustic bread or baguette into bite size pieces, drizzle with a little olive and sprinkle with a little salt. Place in the oven under the broiler to crisp and lightly char. Set aside to be used for serving.
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm ¼ cup of olive oil until it sizzles but is not smoking. Add the sliced onions, season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes, stirring to coat with the oil and combine with the spice. Continue the sauté, stirring frequently until the onions begin to soften but not brown. Add the garlic, again stirring to coat and combine.
Add the greens, mixing into the onions and garlic and continue the sauté until the greens begin to wilt.
Add the stock and water, raise the heat to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer, occasionally stirring until the greens are softened.
Add the beans, stirring them into the pot, then check and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Simmer for just a few more minutes, then serve straightaway ladled into warm bowls topping each with some toasted bread, minced fresh parsley, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of grated cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or one of many aged pecorino choices available. This soup, like most soups and stews, is better served the next day allowing the flavors time to mingle over night.
Whenever you serve it, this soup recipe is a good one to have on hand for days just like today. Enjoy!
Be well. Eat Well.
Good food doesn’t have to be complicated. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—Leonardo daVinci