CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Ham And Bean Soup With Kale

Cold weather is always a great time for soup. It’s a good way to warm up if you’ve been outdoors shoveling the sidewalk after a snowfall or on a walk with the dog.

One kind that’s caught our fancy recently has been a version of ham and bean soup, which I’ve been enjoying since childhood. (It was one of my Dad’s specialties.) What makes the soup a favorite of ours is that it includes kale, a dark, leafy green that’s a member of the cabbage family. This “superfood” is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is much more nutritious than regular leaf or iceberg lettuce, which costs a pretty penny in the supermarket these days.

I’ve been growing quite a bit of kale in my garden the past couple of years and usually pick a nice big bag of it at the end of the gardening season that we store in the vegetable crisper of our refrigerator for use in salads. The rest of the bounty is frozen for use in soup, where the strong taste that some people associate with kale is not apparent.

Just this past week, I made the following recipe using some of the kale from the freezer along with ham that was vacuum-sealed and frozen at Easter and leftover turkey broth from Thanksgiving. The soup was very tasty and definitely took a bite our of our grocery bill!

Ham and Bean Soup with Kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup yellow onion, chopped fine
2 medium carrots, diced small
1 large celery stalk, diced small
2 cups cooked ham, diced in small cubes
3 15½-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence or any combination of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram, savory, sage, fennel, dill or and lavender.
2 32-ounce containers of low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups fresh chopped kale
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot to medium heat and add olive oil and ham. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes until browned in spots.
Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté for 5 minutes until veggies start to soften.
Stir in chicken stock, beans, thyme, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and stir in kale and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes.
Adjust seasoning. You may need to add salt and more pepper. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and/or sour cream if desired.
Note:  As mentioned above, I substituted turkey as well as pheasant broth for the store-bought chicken version.

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