Winter Bean Soup
Prep: 30 minutes, plus soaking time
Cook: About 2 hours
Makes: 4 servings
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green sliced into matchsticks, soaked, drained, dried
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig each: fresh rosemary, fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups plumped cannellini beans, see note
1/2 cup cubed ham
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups thinly sliced lacinato kale leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Soften: In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low. Tumble in leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and the crushed red pepper.
Simmer: Tie together rosemary, thyme and bay leaf; toss this bundle into the pot. Stir in beans, ham and tomatoes. Pour in 6 cups broth. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. Cover and let simmer until beans turn tender and flavorful, about 1 hour 45 minutes for dried beans, about 30 minutes for canned.
Adjust: As the beans simmer, add some of the remaining broth, if need be. The goal is a broth swimming with beans, not a thick chili-style mash.
Serve: When beans are tender, taste the broth and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Discard herb bundle. Stir in kale, cover, and cook tender, about 10 minutes. Scoop soup into bowls. Dust with Parmesan. Enjoy hot.
Note: Cover 1/2 pound dried cannellini beans with cold water and let soak overnight, drain and rinse; or cover 1/2 pound dried beans with cold water, boil 1 minute, let soak 1 hour, drain and rinse; or open two 15-ounce cans of beans, drain and rinse. (If using canned beans, cut the salt in step 1 in half; taste before adding more.)