A thought occurred to be when I stepped into the door and stared at treasures I had brought home from the market—What the heck am I going to do with all this Swiss chard? Ironically, it was my first time cooking with and eating Swiss chard. Imagine the horrors of it if I hated it.
What made me bring home so much Swiss chard in the first place was all thanks to the November 2007 issue of Cooking Light. I came across a recipe for an Italian White Bean and Spinach Soup, which looked delicious—something warm and cozy that I can bring to work for lunch. But it was past prime spinach season, so I decided to substitute Swiss chard for the spinach, and here is where my story all began.
The soup comes together very quickly, and is chock full of wonderful veggies. The addition of the shiitake mushrooms adds complexity to the flavours, giving it a rich, earthy tone. I recently rediscovered my red chilli flakes in my cupboard, so add a dash if you like a little kick. And this soup can easily be made more substantial by adding some pancetta, bacon or smoky chorizo sausage.
Swiss Chard and Bean Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light, November 2007
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cups cold water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
4 cups packed fresh Swiss chard, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 16-ounce can Romano beans, or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can organic vegetable or chicken broth
Fresh thyme, for garnish (optional)
Red pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine mushrooms and 2 cups cold water in a bowl; cover and let stand for at least 2 hours. Remove mushrooms from the water, squeezing as much excess liquid out of them as possible and reserving the liquid. Reserve the stems. Chop mushrooms and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red chilli flakes and mushrooms (including the stems); sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add the reserved mushroom liquid, Swiss chard, thyme, beans, and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the mushroom stems. Serve in warmed soup bowls and garnish with thyme and red chilli flakes, if desired.