Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! & White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens

Last week reminded me of my first winter back in New Hampshire. At least last Thursday morning did. That first January back, it wasn’t just cold, it was brutally, day-after-day below zero cold. I’m convinced it was some kind of record-breaker. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t but, if not, well, it was d@#n cold.

But back to last Thursday. Like most mornings, I hobbled out of bed around 6:15. It was dark and cold and the day seemed particularly unwelcoming. Unlike like most mornings, instead of jumping into my walking clothes, I decided to check the thermometer. Wrapping myself in an old flannel robe, I stumbled downstairs to discover it was -18 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a flare for the even more dramatic, it was -28 on the Celsius scale.

Although I am remarkably loyal to my daily walk, I went back to bed.

Not so that first January back in New Hampshire. It was déjà vu all over again. When we were kids, my parents bought a season ski pass at King Ridge for the family. There was no snowmaking so the season was short. It didn’t matter how cold it was; if there was snow, you went skiing. No questions, no arguments, it was what you did. So that first winter back when I awoke to a subzero thermometer, I reverted to type.

With my father’s voice in my ear, I dressed like an onion in layer after layer and threw my skis in the back of the car. I was a hearty New Englander, returned to her roots. Like the mail carrier, we ski in sleet and snow and driving rain. We are hardly daunted by -20 degrees (-29 Celsius) and gale winds. Or so I thought.

I took one run, a second and then a break to warm up. I repeated the routine, again and again. Until the wind barreling up the mountain was so strong that it brought me to a complete stop. Gasping for breath, I pushed on and made it to the bottom of the hill. Shivering and defiant, I threw my skis in the back in the car and drove home. A woman can only take so much mediocre ski lodge coffee.

But not too defiant. A few days later, I tried again. After two runs, I uttered an expletive deletive and called it a day. Enough was enough. On that frigid January day, I became an emancipated New Englander. Always independent, some might say to a fault, I would be my own type of New Englander. One who defied definition but drank good, strong coffee and only skied when the sun was shining, the winds were gentle and the temperatures above 10 (still negative at -12C).

And one who is still remarkably loyal to an almost daily walk. While it was dangerously cold at 6:15 last Thursday, slowly but surely the mercury inched its way up the thermometer. At 2:00, it was now or never, so dressed like the Michelin Man, I headed out the door.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

White Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Wilted Greens
There is nothing like a bowl of soup when the temperature plummets. Enjoy!
Serves 8 or more

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
Olive oil
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 1/2 large onions, cut the half onion in large chunks and finely chop the whole
5 celery stalks, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
6 or more cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
2 large (about 2 pounds) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
About 12 ounces baby kale
About 12 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Garnish: shaved or roughly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover plus 3-4 inches and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Rinse the pot. Return the beans to the pot, add the chunks of onion, celery and carrot and cold water to cover plus 2 inches. Tie 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add it to the beans. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the vegetables and herbs and drain the beans. Can be done ahead or you can use canned beans, rinsed and drained.

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste and the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, season with cumin, allspice, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and garlic and, still stirring, cook for 2 minutes more. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the beans, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and remaining thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes (or 30 minutes if using canned beans).

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the sweet potatoes and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

Raise the heat to medium, add the kale and spinach, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme twig and bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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One Year Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
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Three Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Four Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Five Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Six Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How are you coping with the winter chill? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015


4 thoughts on “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! & White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens

  1. Dear Susan — thank you for all your good “work” — for life at the beginning of the upper valley.

    Would you come over to dinner here some time — you are very cool. Are you sure you’re here? Love, Dana


    • Liz – It’s pretty thick as is so you don’t really need to smash the beans and sweet potato. The sweet potatoes partially breakdown – not completely but somewhat – and that gives a nice thick and smooth body. Enjoy! Take care – Susan


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