This recipe was inspired by some gigantic beans that I purchased in Napa, CA on a visit last fall. They're Rancho Gordo's heirloom Royal Corona beans, white beans shaped like limas, but much larger. They inflate even more when cooked and add a meaty, creamy texture to soups and stews. Unfortunately, they're a little hard to come by, so you can substitute cannellini or cassoulet beans instead. Canned beans are also fine, though I do prefer the texture of cooked dried beans. The recipe was inspired by one for a bean and swiss chard soup from Marcella Hazan's "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" (1987). That is a much simpler soup with many fewer ingredients. This one uses homemade chicken stock, but a low-sodium store-bought variety will also do, although I love the flavor a broth made with leftover roasted chicken bones and gravy gave to my soup! This was published on my blog last month. You can check it out at http://ruthtalksfood.blogspot.com/2015/01/an-elusive-but-very-big-bean-and-soup.html . —Ruth
8 to 10
homemade or store-bought, low-sodium chicken broth
large onion, peeled and diced
medium carrots, washed, peeled and diced
large celery stalks, washed and diced
medium potato, washed, peeled and diced
kale, washed, chopped and loosely packed
Italian parsley, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups
Royal Corona, cassoulet or cannellini beans, cooked or canned, drained
2- to 3-inch Parmigiano-Reggiano rind or 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
If using dried beans, soak them overnight, drain, then cook until tender but not mushy. Measure the requisite amount. If using canned, drain, then measure 1 1/2 cups.
In a large skillet over a medium heat, add half the oil and fry chopped onions, celery, carrots and potatoes until softened and golden but not cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to a stockpot, along with the chicken broth and bay leaf. Warm over a medium flame until simmering, then lower heat.
Add the remaining oil to the skillet and cook kale until lightly wilted on medium heat. Add parsley and garlic, cooking for another minute or two. Add to the stock pot along with the cooked beans and Parmesan rind, if using. If using grated Parmesan, save it until later.
Add extra salt and pepper to taste, plus thyme, basil, additional spices and wine. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are well blended.
Stir in cooked chicken and grated Parmesan, if using, right before serving.
Ladle into bowls and top with additional Parmesan. Serve with a crusty bread (or crispy croutons), a green salad and vino!