Let the mish-mash of beans and legumes combine with nutrient-dense winter greens and smoky-porky bits to tempt you into the kitchen.
Nothing says comfort like a steaming pot of soup heavily laden with beans, healthy greens, and the heady scent of smoked pork. And while it’s true that I’ve even admitted that I like a good, hearty bowl of soup in the dog days of summer, there’s nothing that quite compares to the way it warms you down to your soul in the middle of a snow storm.
I love the way that a mish-mash of beans and legumes (gathered from the bottom of bags in the pantry or packaged together) combine with nutrient-dense winter greens (which are at their very best after the first frost) and smoky-porky bits to tempt you into the kitchen.
- 20 oz. mixed dried beans & lentils (such as Hurst's or just add odds and ends that you have)
- 2-3 quarts water
- 1 lb. smoked pork necks (or hocks)
- few sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 heaping Tbs. smoked paprika
- couple handfuls mixed greens (such as kale & swiss chard), chopped large
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs white wine vinegar
- Place bean mixture into a large bowl and cover with water by a couple of inches. Soak 8 hours or overnight. Alternately, put them in a pot and cover with water by a couple of inches. Bring to a rapid boil for ~3 minutes. Cover, turn off heat and let sit for one hour. Drain water and rinse.
- Place soaked bean mixture in a large pot or Dutch oven with 2 quarts of the water, the pork hocks, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, cover partially. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until beans are just tender, ~1-1½ hours. If using lentils, they will mostly disintegrate and thicken into the liquid. If soup seems too thick, add some more of the water.
- Add onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes with their juices, and paprika to the pot. Stir in, then continue to simmer very gently for another 15 minutes. Stir in greens and continue cooking another 5-10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Fish out the hocks with a long pair of tongs or a skimmer. Go ahead and remove the thyme stalks and bay leaves while you're at it and discard them. Set aside the hocks for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle. Pick the meat from the bones and add the meat back to the pot.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the vinegar. Serve!
Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez is a Michiana-based food writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.