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Swiss chard, white bean, and sausage soup

The secret to this flavorful pot of homemade soup is to add the rinds of Parmesan cheese blocks to the tomato broth as it simmers.

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    This soup’s got everything – hearty greens, chunks of spiced sausage, creamy cannellini beans, sweet carrots, flecks of bright basil and oregano and a deeply flavorful tomato-based broth.
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This soup’s got everything – hearty greens, chunks of spiced sausage, creamy cannellini beans, sweet carrots, flecks of bright basil and oregano, and a deeply flavorful tomato-based broth that’s good enough to be a soup in its own right. I start by sautéing a small mountain of onions and garlic, then brown the sausage and throw in the chard ribs and carrots for a couple minutes. Then I add a Mason jar of pureed tomatoes and some vegetable stock.

But the secret ingredient is something most people throw away. I add the rind that’s left when you’ve gone as far with a block of Parmesan as you think is wise. I save my Parmesan and Romano rinds in a zip-top bag in the fridge and toss them right into the broth to simmer. It adds depth and a wonderful savory flavor.

Although this is best with fresh chard (which is one of those vegetables you can usually find fresh for much of the year), you can also use frozen with great results. I’ve been freezing excess chard from my garden.

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I remove the ribs and chop them up to freeze them separately, then blanch the leaves for about 2 seconds, ice them, dry them, and freeze them in zip-top bags for making soups and stews in the winter. The summertime me thinks it’s kind of a pain but the wintertime me will think the summertime me is a genius. If you can’t find fresh chard, you can also probably buy it frozen. Around here, the good folks at Hudson Valley Harvest sell great frozen kale, chard and other veggies, all from local farms.

I like to use cannellini because of their firm skin, creamy texture and mild, slightly nutty flavor but you could use navy beans or great northern beans, too. If you have time to cook dried beans from scratch, they’ll be tastier, cheaper and probably a little more nutritious.

I used a jar of our canned tomatoes (thanks again to the summertime me!) but if you don’t go in for that whole canning production, I would recommend using either a container of Pomi tomatoes or a glass jar of crushed tomatoes.

Once the slicing and dicing is done, the rest is a breeze. Just keep on adding things to the pot, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour.

Soon, delicious smells will begin to fill the air and people may start to flock to the kitchen in anticipation. Ladle your steaming, Parmesan-spiked soup into bowls, top with some chopped parsley, a blizzard of fresh Parmesan cheese, and serve with a green salad and crusty bread with butter and salt.

Swiss Chard, White Bean, and Sausage Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large bunch Swiss or rainbow chard, washed, dried with the ribs removed, chopped and set aside
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
3-4 carrots, sliced
2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Half a bunch of fresh basil, rinsed, dried, and chopped
Handful of fresh oregano, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 lb. organic pork sausage, uncased (try to buy from a farmer near you)
1 quart of pureed or chopped tomatoes
1 quart of vegetable stock  (I often make my own from kitchen scraps but when I don’t have any in the freezer, I use Better Than Bouillon’s organic veggie base)
However many Parmesan or Romano rinds you can rustle up
A few teaspoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until they begin to become transparent then add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.

2. Add the chard ribs and carrots and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Clear some space in the middle of all those vegetables and toss the sausage in. Cook, stirring frequently and kind of chopping it up with the spoon or spatula to cut the meat up into manageable chunks. Sauté until the meat is browned.

3. Add the tomato and vegetable stock along with the Parmesan rinds and half of the basil and oregano and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chard leaves, the beans and the rest of the herbs, stir, then add salt and pepper, taste it and adjust as needed.

4. Cook for another 10-15 minutes then serve, topped with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a lot of fresh, grated Parmesan.

Related post on The Garden of Eating: Swiss Chard and Barley Gratin

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of food bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by The Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own and they are responsible for the content of their blogs and their recipes. All readers are free to make ingredient substitutions to satisfy their dietary preferences, including not using wine (or substituting cooking wine) when a recipe calls for it. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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