Soup to warm bodies and hearts on cold winter days

My second blog entry is soup. Around the country currently, many states are experiencing snow and cold, so, it seems appropriate to have soup on the menu for nearly every meal. I’ve been making soup for decades but lately I’ve been branching out and experimenting with new varieties, like the one below.

On cold wintry days, what people are experiencing in Denver this year, nothing beats a warm, hearty soup! Also, this soup is an alternative to many red-saucy Italian soups as well as rich pasta and cheese dishes, I often cook. The leeks and cabbage add a slight sweetness but too they create a mild soup, but also, for folks who want a kick to their slurpy soup, they can add cayenne pepper or green or red chilis. Everyone will have reason to enjoy this heartwarming soup!

Creamy Garden Vegetable and Bean Soup

Cook and Prep Time: about 2 hrs.                                             Serves  8-10+

¼ cup olive oil, plus more if needed

1   2 ½   lb slab of spare ribs, or 2 lb boneless country-style ribs – cut ribs through individually, if using bone-in spareribs  

2 Tbs   flour

1 ½  tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 medium onion, chopped

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed, sliced ½ inch pieces

1 small head savoy cabbage, core removed, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

 2 bay leaves

1 ¾ lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1- 1 ½ – inch chunks

2-3 cup stale or day-old bread, slightly toasted, then cubed – crust removed

2 hunks of cheese rind from cheeses like – Goudo, Parmesan, Fontina or Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Dry the meat, coat on all sides with a mixture of salt, pepper and flour. Let the meat sit, covered on the counter for thirty minutes.  Heat a 10-12-quart heavy pot with the olive oil.  Add the meat and brown on medium-high heat on all sides -8-12 minutes, turning occasionally, letting brown bits accumulate. Lower the heat and cook the meat for an additional 10  minutes. Do in 2 batches for best browning and so as not to crowd the pot.  Remove to a plate, cover the meat loosely.
  2. In the same pot, add the leeks, onions, carrots, and cabbage, cook 7-10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally as the vegetables wilt and turn slightly brown.  Add the garlic, cook 1 minute longer, adding a bit of olive oil, if needed. Add the potatoes, ribs and any juice from the ribs, along with the  2 cans of cannellini beans, one can of black beans and one can of chickpeas. Add 6 quarts of cold water, bring to a rolling simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook 30-40 minutes for the meat to cook through, the potatoes to soften and for the soup to thicken. As the soup comes to a simmer add the bay leaves, the cheese rinds, and the cubed bread.
  3. Once the soup is ready, you may need to remove the cheese rinds, but sometimes they dissolve, so removal is not necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Tips and Tweaks:

  • To make the soup vegetarian, leave out the meat.
  • Toward the end of cooking as the soup simmers, add various herbs, approximately a half teaspoon each of thyme, basil, winter savory, oregano, and, for an unusual flavor a half teaspoon of Garma masala, a potent  Indian spice.
  • For those wishing a higher level of heat, add cayenne pepper, or for medium spice level, at step 2 add a cut-up serrano or banana pepper, the serrano chili usually being more spicy than the banana one.
  • For variety, try changing the bean ingredients using others you may favor.
  • Replace the leek with the strong taste of a chopped  red onion. 

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