One of the things I appreciate most is nourishing and delicious food. Nothing fancy, unheard of, or too complicated. Sometimes, I crave just plain goodness. When I came upon Skye Gyngell’s Chickpea and Chard Soup, it spoke to me. I followed some of her methods but added and substituted some ingredients to make my own version.
You might notice that the ingredient list is spaced out. They are listed according to use. I encourage you to read through the entire recipe first, before making the soup to ensure that you have everything you need. I also used homemade vegetable broth, which really is not too complicated to make.
Over the course of a few weeks, collect scrap pieces of vegetables and save them in zip bags in the freezer. For instance, the big broccoli or cauliflower stalks, cabbage core, carrot tops, parsley or any herb stems, the ends of kale/collard greens/Swiss chard stalks, onion peel and the thick first layer of the bulb, and so on. When you have about two big bags full of veggie scraps, pull them out of the freezer, dump them in a big pot, and cover with water. Then add more fresh herbs if you have any that are just lying around (preferably thyme, oregano, parsley, dill, rosemary, or sage), a few mashed cloves of garlic, one or two bay leaves, a generous amount of salt, black peppercorns, and maybe some olive oil (I forgot to add this in the latest broth that I made, it turned out fine). Cover the pot, turn the heat on to medium, and bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, leave the pot partially uncovered, and let it cook for 2-4 hours or until it takes on a murky green color (sometimes it’s brownish). Let it sit for another hour or two until it cools down and strain the liquid into a large container. Measure the broth into cups and store in smaller containers in the freezer. Measuring it beforehand will let you know how much is in each container so you just pull one or two out as needed. Easy peasy!
This soup is immensely satisfying. It has a bright lemony punch that is tampered by the sharp richness of Parmesan cheese and the creamy bread pieces. After being cooked for a long time, the lima beans take on a lovely, velveteen feel. The softened Swiss chard leaves not only give the soup a boost of healthiness but also add a pleasant touch of mild green flavors. And the stalks are there to provide that perfect crunch. The mushrooms present a hint of earthy flavors and texture variety. All these ingredients playing together in one pot make this simple soup unforgettable. A big bowl or two is what you need to give yourself some love.
Lima Bean and Swiss Chard Soup
Inspiration from My Favorite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell
1+1/8 cups (8 oz) dry lima beans
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
juice of half a large lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rinse the lima beans. Place the beans in a medium size saucepan and cover with water. Sprinkle with salt and toss in the bay leaf. Turn the heat on to medium high, cover, and bring the beans to a boil. This will take about 7 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow the beans to cook for about an hour. Partially uncover the saucepan to keep it from boiling over, a thin sliver of opening for the steam to come out is enough, otherwise the beans will dry out. Stir the beans every now and then for even cooking. You will know that the beans are done when they are tender all the way through as you bite into them. I suggest tasting 3 beans as some of them might be more done than the others. If your beans are not done in an hour, add a few more minutes of cooking time.
When the beans are cooked, drain the leftover water and move the cooked beans into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil to dress the beans and mix well. Set aside, until the soup mixture is ready.
While the beans cook, begin to prepare the other ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (4 oz) mixed mushrooms, shiitake and baby bella, sliced thinly
½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, stems removed
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, stems removed
½ teaspoon salt
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable stock (I made my own)
1 bunch (10 oz) Swiss chard, leaves and stalks (*See note on how to prepare.)
2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices day old peasant-style bread (Italian bread), cut into 1-inch squares
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper, any amount you desire
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (which is what I used) or a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic, mushrooms, parsley, and tarragon. Stir and make sure everything gets coated with the oil then sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir every so often and cook for about 5 minutes until the mushroom slices shrink and brown.
Add the diced tomatoes in the mix and stir in ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cover the Dutch oven and allow the tomatoes to cook for 20 minutes. Stir the mixture every now and then.
Pour in the vegetable stock, stir, and cover. Cook the stock with the tomatoes for 10 minutes, which is just enough for the flavors to start coming together.
Add the beans and simmer, covered, on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. If it starts to boil, partially uncover the lid. After 30 minutes, remove the lid entirely and let cook for 10 more minutes.
Toss in the Swiss chard stalks and leaves into the Dutch oven. Stir and let cook for 5-6 minutes, until the leaves begin to wilt and submerge into the soup.
Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. It will immediately form into globs so make sure to stir it evenly amidst the leaves and beans. Then, toss in the bread pieces and stir. Continue to cook on medium low heat, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. The soup will magically thicken up as the bread disintegrates and the flavors will almost immediately transform into something richer and fuller.
Turn off the burner and move the Dutch oven away from the heat. Season with olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. The extra olive oil at the end works really well to mellow out the lemony punch. However, if you like the soup the way it is, feel free to omit the extra olive oil.
*Note on preparing Swiss chard:
Hold a Swiss chard leaf stalk-side up. Use a sharp knife and slide it along the inner sides of the stalk to separate the leaves. Cut the stalks into ½ inch chunks and tear the Swiss chard leaves into big pieces.