One of my earliest memories of winter is walking off a curb, into a snow bank and finding myself surrounded by snow over my head. It seemed like such a magical thing, to be completely enveloped in soft, noise muffling snow. I may have been only 2 or 3 years old at the time, but that image of looking up and seeing nothing but snow and a peek of sky has stayed with me.
Friends, I am here to tell you that the magic of winter is gone for me. I am cold–are you cold? I am not the biggest fan of cold weather in the best of circumstances, but this winter has just been downright ridiculous. Since I can’t change the weather (I have tried), the best thing I can do is hunker down and eat cozy, warm, comfort foods. Like this soup. For me, winter soups need to be substantial, but also healthy. I like them hearty, with lots of delicious vegetables and either beans or pasta. This rustic white bean soup is easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of chopping or prep work. Easy, warm, nutritious and comforting. Just the thing to help me survive until spring!
I prefer cooking soup in a stock pot, but you can make this soup in a slow cooker by cooking on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4 hours. Don’t skimp on the rosemary or garlic–they give this dish a lot of great flavor!
A note about the beans: This dish will taste even better if you use dried beans and dehydrate them overnight, but if you are in a hurry you can use canned cannellini beans instead and cut your cooking time to about 45 minutes.
Ham and White Bean Soup with Kale (makes 4 servings)
- 4 cups (1 quart) organic chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 cups rehydrated organic white cannellini beans (about 2 cups dry) or 3 cans of organic white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 organic carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 large handful of baby kale (or chopped regular greens)
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary, stems removed and needles chopped
- 1/2 cup smoked ham, prosciutto or side meat
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Night before (if using dried beans): Put the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water plus about 2″. Cover and let sit overnight or for 7-8 hours.
- In a 10″ saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
- If using dried beans, drain the beans, discarding the soaking water.
- In a stock pot, add all the ingredients except kale, salt and pepper. Heat over medium low and simmer for 4-6 hours. Check every once and a while and if the soup is too thick, add additional stock or water.
- Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the kale and simmer for another hour.
- Serve hot with crusty bread or a side salad.