I tend to cook from recipes most of the time. This is due largely to fact that I enjoying cooking totally new things and I wouldn't have any idea how to go about them otherwise. Even then, though, I'm pretty good at coming up with substitutions and variations to fit my needs/tastes/supplies. And of course I've got go-to dishes (brussels sprouts with bacon, risotto) that I need no directions for.
So I guess I shouldn't be as proud as I am of the white bean and swiss chard soup I made last week, totally from scratch, without following a recipe.
My goal was to recreate an amazing soup I had in January at Nopa. It consisted of kale and miniature white beans in a parmesan* broth, with croutons. "This can't be so hard," I thought to myself, and it wasn't! This soup is hearty and delicious, with complex flavors and simple preparation.
A couple simple variations: if you want the soup to be vegan, use olive oil instead of bacon fat. If you want it to be meatier, cook pieces of bacon (or sausage crumbles) in the pan first, then remove; proceed using the fat left in the pan and then add the meat back in at the end. You could use tomato paste to enrich the broth, or use homemade chicken or vegetable stock (but it was really flavorful made with water, thanks to the caramelized onions, soy sauce, and plenty of salt). I'm also sure this soup would be better with dried beans; maybe it would work to add them when you add the water (you'll need more water, I imagine) and then simmer for a couple of hours before going to the next step.
White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup - serves 3-4
2 tbsp bacon fat (or olive oil or butter)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1lb (1 bunch) swiss chard, stems and ribs separated from the leaves and chopped, leaves chopped
4-5 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 small tomato, diced
Dash of apple cider or red/white wine vinegar
1. Heat the fat in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the garlic and the chard stems and ribs. Cook until the chard is browned and onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the water and soy sauce and bring to a simmer.
4. Once simmering, add the chard leaves, beans, and tomato. Stir, cooking until leaves are wilted and beans are warmed through.
5. Add the vinegar and salt and freshly ground pepper (and/or more soy sauce) to taste.
Let me know if you try it, and how it worked out for you!
*The parmesan rind I added ended up not doing much for me, so I'm left it out of the recipe above.