My CSA shares have given me three challenges related to the regularity and volume of certain bounties: zucchini, kale, and chard. The first of these veggies I’ve managed very well; the kale is getting used as well, but with less imagination; the chard, however, has been a harder test. Zucchini is ‘easy’ by comparison because its subtle flavours allow it to blend or be bent in many directions; chard, on the other hand, has a distinct taste that is hard to miss … and harder to ‘hide.’ That means, you either have to love it or be tolerant of these earthy and sometimes citrusy even ‘sour’ flavours.
My past experiments (e.g. Swiss Chard with Bacon and Cranberries) with using it as side have been popular with me … but less so with Anne who falls more in the ‘tolerate’ category of chard. So with the chard piling up in my fridge, I had to find a way to use both it and some of the other veg that was accumulating. The solution? Soup ….
The advantage of going the soup route, I surmised, is that not only could I use up more of the other veg I needed to get out of my fridge, but I also thought it would provide me a way to ‘hide’ the chard among other flavours.
The final bit of inspiration came from a package of prosciutto in my packed freezer that was also making a bid for a spot on the main stage. So it came to me – ham and chard, fresh Italian herbs and tomatoes: it said “Minestrone.”
Now the minestrone I personally grew up on was a product of leftover ham and the ham bone from the Christmas season. With 20°C weather outside, Christmas was still a ways off but I figured, why not make a ‘lazy’ minestrone using the heavily cured prosciutto and my homemade chicken stock as a base instead? And, instead of the more typical spinach that would go in the soup, why not use a big bunch of chard? The only question was whether this faster soup would have the depth of flavour of a traditional soup based off the bone.
Well, the answer is, I couldn’t have been happier with how this all came together to produce a nourishing and tasty soup which gave the chard a more subtle role to play and made it likeable, even loveable, by a wider audience. The only thing I’d do differently was the beans. I couldn’t find a low sodium pinto bean, my first choice, and I didn’t have time to soak them from scratch, so I opted for a roma bean instead. It was tasty, but ultimately much softer and bigger than I’d have preferred. Ultimately, use whatever bean you want – it’s your soup after all – but if you have time, I’d recommend soaking your own for this soup and letting it be perfect.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
Minestrone with Chard and Prosciutto
- 1 bunch (12-16oz. or 350-450g) chard, leaves and stems separated
- 12 fluid ounces diced, fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces (115g), prosciutto, sliced and chopped
- ¾ lb potatoes (2 medium), cubed
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 19 ounce can of pinto/Roma beans, rinsed and drained
- Fresh ground pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 2 ounces Parmesan skins (optional)
→ see Hamburger Soup recipe for description
- Red wine (optional garnish)
- Extra-virgin olive (garnish)
- With a sharp knife, remove the centre vein and stems from the chard leaves.
Roll the leaves together and slice them across into ½” (1 cm) wide slices. Toss the sliced leaves into a salad spinner and wash, drain, and spin dry and set aside.
- Take the stems now, wash them well, and then chop them into ¼” pieces. Set aside.
- Heat a 4 litre/quart stock pot over medium high heat and add olive oil and onions, carrots, and red pepper and sauté till golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add the colourful chopped stems of the chard and continue to sauté for 5 minutes more, until they soften.
- Add prosciutto and continue for until the meat just begins to brown, roughly another 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook another minute.
- Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup of stock and then build up the soup with the rest of the stock, the diced tomatoes, beans, potatoes and the salt and pepper and sugar.
- Add the the Parmesan skins and basil.
- Let simmer for 30 minutes and then add the chard leaves, stirring them into the hot broth as they wilt.
- Simmer, covered, for another 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.Note: Flavours of the soup will get richer and better the next day.f
- Optionally serve with a fresh drizzle of olive oil and/or some freshly grated Parmesan or, if you like, a splash of red wine before serving in each bowl.