Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Abundance of Chard ...

If there's a more photogenic vegetable in the garden than Swiss Chard, I'm not sure what it is. True, the tomatoes might give chard a run for its money, but you just can't beat the gorgeous ruby stems of this beauty. I snapped the pick for posterity because this lovely bunch came back to New York City with me on Monday.

I've been meaning to make something different with the chard this time and had a white bean soup in mind. The weather is not cooperating with my plan. Its 400 degrees here again. Distinctly un-soupy weather, save for the humidity. But, I want to make soup, dammit! I'm going to make soup and we're going to eat it too, even if it means cranking the a/c up as high as it will go.

Before we get to the recipe of the day, I will - at last - share my news. You may have noticed the little "Featured Publisher" badge on the top right side of the blog. It will link you to Foodbuzz.com, which is the foodie version of a social networking site. Its an awesome resource for all kinds of food related fun - full of great blogs, recipes, photos, restaurant reviews and more. About a month ago I submitted Beach Eats for inclusion in their Featured Publisher Program and I've been accepted! I'm thrilled to be associated with such a cool new site and I look forward to the possibilities for Beach Eats. I've already met some wonderful blog friends through Foodbuzz and I'm excited about the potential for gaining increased readership. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen - but, at a minimum, it means that someone has read my content and found it acceptable. Color me as bright and happy as this chard!

And now, let's get cooking. I didn't really have a specific recipe in mind when I made this soup last night - just got a bunch of ingredients together and let the soup develop as I went along. Its all pretty standard really and the amounts listed are entirely flexible. I used some whole wheat orzo in the soup, but you could certainly substitute any variety of small pasta - or even leave it out. I also used some turkey bacon and I'd like to talk about that for a minute. If you choose to use turkey rather than real bacon, be sure to buy a brand that is as chemical-free as possible. I've had good results with Applegate Farms nitrate-free turkey bacon. Its lean and has a nice, unprocessed, smoky flavor. I once made the mistake of buying Jennie-O turkey bacon and it was awful. Tasted like a mouth full of chemicals. Horrid! I ended up throwing it out. So, please don't use that brand in this soup.

Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup:

  • one large bunch of Swiss Chard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 rib of celery, leaves included if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 pieces of turkey bacon
  • 2 -3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. of good quality curry powder*
  • 2 inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • one can of cannellini beans
  • one can of small white beans (I used Goya low-sodium brand)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • some cooked whole wheat orzo or other small pasta
Garnishes:

  • chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • some smoked salt
  • wedge of lemon to be sprinkled over the soup at table
Remove any large, tough stems from the chard and wash it well. Drain and chop into bite sized pieces. Reserve.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed, stock pot over medium high heat, add the turkey bacon and saute until well browned. Remove and reserve for later. Add the olive oil, shallots, onion, garlic and celery to the pot and saute, stirring often to pick up the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Continue sauteing for @ 3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Begin adding the chard, in bunches, to the pan and saute, stirring constantly until wilted. Once the greens have cooked down, add in another handful of the chard and repeat the process until all of it has wilted. This process will take some time, be patient.

Stir in the rosemary and saute for one minute. Add the chicken and vegetable broths to the pot, along with the curry powder and stir to combine. Add the piece of Parmesan cheese rind, bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Remove the Parmesan rind after simmering and discard. (Hint, it is used for flavor, but don't waste the lovely, melty bits of cheese that will develop while simmering. Scrape them off and eat them. Delish!)

While the soup is simmering, prepare the beans. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and reserve. Drain and rinse the small white beans and mash them to a paste, either using a fork or your food processor. Reserve. Once the soup has simmered for the recommended time, add in the mashed beans and stir vigorously to blend. Add in the reserved whole beans and stir to combine. Chop the reserved turkey bacon and add it to the pot. Let the soup simmer for @ 5 more minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and a generous grinding of black pepper to taste.

Place some of the cooked pasta in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the chard and bean soup over it. Serve with any or all of the above listed garnishes and enjoy! I particularly recommend the smoked salt - it adds a wonderful flavor and is great with any egg or pasta dishes as well.

I should note for the record - the finished product is decidedly un-photogenic, hence no final pictures here. But, what it lacks in visuals is made up for in taste. This soup is a healthy, hearty, meal in a bowl. I hope you'll try it!

*One final note about the curry powder ... this soup will not taste like a curried soup. I always add a hint of good quality curry powder to any chicken broth based dish I make. When using a canned stock, it can often lack depth and I find the hint of curry really compliments the chicken flavor and adds to the overall richness of the soup. Give it a try next time you're making a chicken soup - you won't be disappointed!

13 comments:

Tracy said...

Congrats, Ms. Featured Publisher! The photo of chard is gorgeous! The soup sounds really delicious but it is SO blasted hot right now! I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Sass said...

Congrats to you!

Well deserved, I'd say. ;-)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Aw, thanks, girls! I appreciate your ongoing support. If nothing else, this blog and Foodbuzz have made me some great new friends and I am loving that!

Thanks, again!

xoxoxo

Deb said...

Congrats on the Foodbuzz gig - you deserve it! You are a wealth of information and your photos of foods are wonderful.

The soup sounds wonderful and could help me over my childhood fears of all things chard. I have horrible memories of this veggie and now is the time to erase them and what better way than with a Diva recipe.

Good luck with your new found fame.

Deb

JAMJARSUPERSTAR said...

Congrats! Doubley, trebly, however many times you wanna be congratulated!

And yes, it probably is the most photogenic vegetable in the world, especially snapped in that sunlight and that close up. I would probably end up with a special bond with it, give it name and not be able to make soup with it - therefore I'm screwed!

Anyway we don't have this vegetable here! At least I've never ever seen one being sold - maybe it's too cold?!
Ciao

Scarlet xxx

(Xtra kisses and hugs for the Foodbuzz gig :)

pixelgal said...

Atta girl Diva dear! The guys who featured you have good taste. I was just looking at the mountain of chard brought in from our Labor Day picnic and wondering how it would end up....so I'll make the soup and maybe freeze it for a cooler day. (I hear your gasping now!) Tonight I may resort to the chicken head already prepared by the local grocery and some of bro's potatoes for the Irish guy who lives here. May 100,000 bloggers find out what they've been missing...and soon. Love you,

The Diva on a Diet said...

Oh dear, you guys are making me blush! Thank you all so much!!!!

Deb - honestly, the soup is delicious, but I know you're chard-wary. My suggestion would be to simmer the soup a bit longer than I've indicated so that the chard flavor will become more muted. If you decide to take the plunge - maybe simmer it for an additional 15 minutes after adding the beans.

Scarlet - SO glad to see you back online, girl! I've missed you and will pop over to your blog to welcome you back. Xtra hugs and kisses to you too!

pixelgal - fear not, this soup is entirely freeze-able. I'm sure it will freeze beautifully, and frankly, it makes so much that I'll be freezing half of mine too. Happy cooking!

Hugs and kiss to all of you for the kind words and encouragement!

pixelgal said...

Dear Diva Readers;
This soup is to DIE for!! I must admit while making it I had my doubts but what put it over the top was the parm cheese and especially the lemon juice sprinkled over it. So delicious! Try it you'll like it, honest! And Diva dear, I didn't have a slice of parm cheese so I used the end of the gouda!!! The only problem was I couldn't find it when I was supposed to take it out so I guess it melted. Anyway, it was superb! And a nice change from the ordinary. Thanks.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Oh, dear pixelgal, you had me laughing so hard the husband had to come in and see what I was doing. Please tell me you didn't use a waxed rind of Gouda. Right?! LOL

Actually, sans wax, the Gouda would be fine, especially if it was aged Gouda. I'm guessing the rind will turn up before you finish the soup. Still funny though.

I'm glad you tried it and even gladder that you liked it. Yay!

xoxoxoxo

pixelgal said...

Glad to get you laughing. It's good for the soul! Anyway, pixelgal is really not that unsophisticated in the kitchen (cotswold savory notwithstanding) and really did remove the red waxy-looking rind before cooking. But just think, if I didn't you'd have another whole column to write!
LYL

The Diva on a Diet said...

Excellent, pixelgal! I did have faith in you, but couldn't resist the funny image. :)

Lael said...

just grazing over the list of ingredients in this soup, I know I will love it! If only I had a garden with chard in my backyard...the grocery stores in my town are quite pathetic in regards to fresh produce :(
Still, I'll do my best to hunt some down and let you know how it goes!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Hi and welcome, Lael! I hope you can find some worthy chard and that you like the soup. Do let me know. I really miss my bro's garden this time of year. Such a luxury to have fresh-from-the-ground produce. :)