Happy 2015 AKA the year that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future 2! While we don’t yet have flying cars (that we know of, guys) and the cool kids aren’t wearing their pants inside out or going to see Jaws 19, there are hoverboards (seriously!), and self-driving cars, and soup still exists! So things are looking pretty good so far… This is not to say that soup is a consolation prize (though it’s pretty consoling as far as foods go). So often we think of soup as boring—a backup meal in a pinch, a necessity on soul-freezing winter days. But when you actually get your hands on a bowl that’s delicious and homemade and full of wonderful things, you remember, “RIGHT. Soup is GREAT. I and my soup-scorning ways have been fools! How COULD I forget how toasty, how satisfying, how surprising, how tasty soup can be.” (We try not to say this aloud each time because we like our friends, we want them to go out in public and eat soup with us.)
This soup is one of those Ah-Ha! soups we’re talking about. Hearty vegetables, leafy greens, comforting broth, all over some nice hunks of bread: it’s so good and filling and supremely unfussy. Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese and you’ve got yourself a deal. (Isn’t that what makes a deal a deal? Olive oil and cheese? We’re pretty sure any and all government documents, treaties, accords, marriage licenses, and so forth in history have only been binding when signed in olive oil and cheese. No? Hmm…)
The secret to making this and so many other soups more than the equivalent of a hot water bottle in your stomach is something you might not expect: the rind of Parmesan cheese. Yes, good broth is really important, as are good ingredients, but adding the cheese rind does amazing, salty, savory glorious things that are hard to describe when you’re eating other than, “Mmm.” Never throw away the cheese rind from a piece of Parmesan. Just toss it in a ziplock bag and put it in your fridge or freezer. This doesn’t work with just any cheese, though. Lots of cheeses have rinds that are just wax so don’t throw just any old rind into your soup or you’ll end up with something weird instead of something wonderful.
Another thing on our ingredient list that might have you raising an eyebrow is the vinegar, but it’s important. It’s just a splash and it gives balance to the flavors in the soup. A one-note soup is much less interesting and satisfying than something with more depth. Together with the cheese rind, a little vinegar makes this soup mouthwatering: saltiness and bit of acidity are key.
We call this Sunday Soup because it’s not only simple enough to make on a cold weekend night when you want something warming but also mostly want to curl up on your couch and watch movies, but it’s just as easy to make a ton of it as it is to make a few bowls. That means you get plenty of lunches and dinners out of it for the coming week too, which is GREAT NEWS because we rarely give ourselves enough time in the mornings before work to make our lunch from scratch. This soup even freezes beautifully, which is some kind of fantastic bonus. Make a bunch, happily dig in, then stash the extra in your fridge and freezer and free up mornings, nights, and afternoons on busy days.
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Sunday Winter Greens Soup
Makes about 14 mouthwatering cups of soup
Notes: We love using escarole in this soup (and also just all the time), but if it’s not available, we’ll use curly endive, also known as chicory. Both greens are in the endive family, but escarole is sweeter and a little less fibrous.
As always, we like to use organic vegetables and beans that come in BPA free cans whenever possible. We also like to use low-sodium broth so we can control the salt content. And, if you’re interested, we learned a pretty neat fact about garlic from Jo Robinson: slicing it up and letting it sit for 10 minutes before cooking actually makes it more healthful. (To find out why, check out her fantastic book, Eating on the Wild Side, or listen to this great interview with her on NPR.)
Feel free to make this soup your own. If you like, you can omit the bread and add some pasta instead. We like to use something small like Ditalini in that case.
– 1 large onion, chopped into approximately quarter inch dice
– Pinch of red pepper flakes
– 3 cloves of garlic, minced
– Salt and black pepper
– 1 tbs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
– 5 or 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into approximately 1/4 inch rounds
– 3 quarts (12 cups) chicken stock
– 1 pound of frozen kale (we used blue curly kale here) or 1 1/2 pounds of washed & chopped fresh kale
– 3-4 cups fresh, chopped escarole (or chicory if you can’t find it)
– 1 18-oz jar of whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
– 1 15-oz can of cannellini beans
– A Parmesan cheese rind or two
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/2 cup fresh basil
– 1 tbs red or white wine vinegar
– Toasted or day-old baguette slices or chunks
– Good olive oil for drizzling
– Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
* Take your frozen kale out of the freezer and set out to thaw some as you cook.
* Heat a good glug of olive oil (maybe 1/4 of a cup) in a large soup pot over medium heat.
* Add the onions and cook until translucent, but not brown. Stir occasionally.
* Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir, cooking for a minute until fragrant. Again, don’t brown the garlic. (A little golden is just fine.)
* Toss in the carrots, salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir. Cook until the carrots have softened a bit.
* Break up the tomatoes and add them to the pot with the bay leaf. Stir, cooking for a minute or two.
* Add the broth and cheese rind. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
* Add in the escarole (or chicory), kale, basil, and beans. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
* While the soup is cooking, divide the bread chunks between your serving bowls.
* Add the vinegar to the soup and stir. Give the soup a taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Fish out the bay leaf and cheese rind—discard.
* Ladle the soup over the bread in each bowl. Top off with a drizzle of good, flavorful olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
©2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All Rights Reserved.