Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Year's Tonic: Chard and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Craving something hearty and healthy? Looking for a restorative after weeks of indulgence? Yeah, you're not alone. It's January. Time for the reset button.
Thus I'm beginning to understand the tradition of serving black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day. It's not just that these foods symbolize luck and prosperity; they are also so darn good for you. Kind of makes you feel virtuous. And all that goodness nullifies the brownies, right?

Chard and Black-Eyed Pea Soup
(This is my own recipe, and it's ripe for personal interpretation. You could easily try out different types or quantities of beans, greens, or spices. Add a salad, maybe some toast, and you have a complete meal.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 3/4 pounds), stems and leaves separated; stems diced and leaves roughly chopped
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 to 2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup small white beans, drained and rinsed (Purely optional. I had leftovers in the fridge that I wanted to use up.)
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Saute the onion, celery, carrots, and chard stems about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, herbs, and spices (but wait on salt). Cook for about a minute, then stir in the tomatoes with their liquid and the chard leaves. Cover the pot and let the chard wilt, about 5 minutes.

Add the black-eyed peas (and any other beans, if using) and water to the pot. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings and add salt if desired, and serve.

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