Curled up in the corner of my couch by a big bay window, I read my book and nurse a bowl of this soup. I have just come in from the cutting cold of the outdoors. The sun brightly shines, but the snow is falling hard as if trying to prove its resilience to the sun. I watch the large flakes float by the window; from where I sit they land on rooftops or wide tree branches cultivating small mountains with each landing flake. The tree bow bends and the snow lands on the ground with a generous thud. I pull the blanket around me a little closer and take another bite and let the heat of the chile warm me.
This spicy chard, potato, and white bean soup speaks to cold fingers and noses. The chile with its thermogenic properties produces heat of its own volition. The rich tomato base, studded with hearty beans, chunks of potato, and whisps of chard, give it substance—just what one needs on a day like this. I return to my book, slurping up the last spoonfuls of liquid from my bowl. I’ll linger just a little longer before I start studying.
Though I love summer more than life itself, there is something really special about the experience of being warm and cozy indoors on a cold winter’s day. It feels peaceful and contemplative. I guess the old adage, “you can take the girl out of the North, but you can’t take the North out of the girl” is true in my case. My Northern girl roots yearn for the occasional gentle falling of snow, and my new (relatively speaking) Southern wings prefer that it only visit for a short while.
This soup is perfect for a lone, contemplative lunch. Or served with a hunk of crusty bread, some grated parmesan, and a salad, it makes quite a dignified weeknight meal.
- 3 tablespoons, olive oil
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, slided
- 1-2 fresh chiles, thinly sliced
- 1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 1.2 L vegetable stock
- 300g/11oz potatoes, diced
- 1 bunch of chard leaves
- 1 15 oz can cannellini beans, preferably BPA free
- 1 large bunch of fresh basil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Parmesan (or other hard cheese) for grating, optional
- First make the broth: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, and chile for 7-8 minutes. Add the tomotoes and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend to a puree. You may need to do this in batches. Return the liquid back to the pan and add the beans. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Season well with salt.
- In the meantime, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until almost done. Drain.
- Cut the chard leaves at the base. Slice the stalks thinly and chop the leaves coarsely.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and add the chard stalks. Sauté for a 2-3 minutes, then add the leaves and sauté for 5-7 minutes more, or until tender. Add the potatoes, a ladle of broth, and the coarsely chopped basil. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the potato is cooked and the stock is absorbed.
- Ladle some broth into bowls and pile some of the vegetables in the centre. Top with grated parmesan, if using.