A Farmer’s Market in January? You betcha! Every other Thursday this month the Bluffton Farmer’s Market will be bustling with activity. Yesterday I was seeking out the tastiest collard greens, fresh herbs and the perkiest turnips. The possibility of discovery is always just around the corner.
Best of all the crowds are thinner this time of year and there’s an opportunity to chat and ask questions not possible in busier seasons. Although there are days when the damp, bitter cold invades our bones but wrapped in sweaters and scarves, it’s still fun to trudge through the relatively barren barm stands. Even on the windiest, grayest, and dampest days it’s a great adventure.
I found everything I needed to make this oh, sooo delicious Winter Minestrone Soup. You’ll want to make a big pot of this to have on hand for when you need supper in a jiffy.
Winter is the time for comfort…for curling up by the fire: it’s the time for being home.
Winter Minestrone Soup
3 tablespoons pure virgin olive oil
8 ounces pancetta, diced very small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 organic carrots, diced
4 stalks celery
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed off, leaves coarsely chopped ( may substitute fresh spinach)
4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed ( or use Navy beans)
2 (14 ounce) cans chicken stock
1 fresh rosemary sprig
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
In a large stockpot heat the olive oil until hot. Add the pancetta and cook just until crispy, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the Swiss chard and the potatoes. Saute for several minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig and simmer gently until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes are broken down.
Meanwhile, blend 1/2 cup of the beans with 1/2 can of the stock in the processor until smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, rest of the stock and the Parmesan cheese to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring once in awhile for about 20 minutes. Next stir in the whole beans and the parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup has thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Discard the rosemary sprig stem. The leaves of the rosemary will fall off during the cooking process. Ladle this delicious hot soup into bowls and serve with Parmesan cheese on the side and some nice crusty bread.
This will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Yields: 14-16 servings.