White beans and cabbage. It doesn’t get much more humble than that.
As you may have noticed from previous posts, I love, love, love a good soup or homey stew (autumn, winter, summer, or spring, soup is fair game). It is also fair game for breakfast (yes, even breakfast), lunch, or dinner.
Who doesn’t appreciate the ease of a one-pot dish? One in which you toss in all the ingredients and let them mix and mingle to develop flavor. But don’t let the simplicity of the ingredients fool you. Modest, humble, everyday ingredients are anything but dull or boring.
I don’t like boring!
In this case, dried white cannellini beans (from the bulk section — one of my favorite places in the grocery store from which to gather ingredients) and the leaves from the massive head of cabbage, pictured below, were my inspiration for this stew. The time consuming parts, cooking the dried beans and roasting the garlic (three heads of garlic go into the stew), were done a day in advance to save time on the back end. From there, it was no more than 35-40 minutes of cooking (largely unattended) before it was time to dig in.
You can go vegetarian with this stew, but the lure of duck was too strong. Shredded some (smoked) duck leg and added it near the end of cooking. In the absence duck, shredded pork or sausage (perhaps a spicy lamb merguez) would be a welcome addition.
I love having a big pot of this on hand to enjoy throughout the week. It tastes even better after a day or two.
I used cabbage in this stew, though you could easily substitute other greens (kale, for instance). Just cut whatever green you choose into thin strips (julienne) and add to the pot…
I prefer the texture of dried beans, but in a pinch you could always use canned beans.
Although three heads of garlic go into the stew, it’s not garlicky. Why? Well, when you roast garlic, it becomes an entirely different beast. When roasted, garlic loses its sharp bite. It caramelizes and becomes soft and buttery, sweet and tender. Come to think of it, why not go ahead and roast a few extra heads of garlic, just to have on hand. It’s that good.
The secret ingredient to this stew and, well, to just about any type of broth into which you want to infuse flavor, has to be the Parmesan rind. Toss in one nice sized piece of and you’ll be amazed by the depth of flavor it adds.
Make friends with your cheese monger and perhaps she will give you a couple rinds for for free 🙂
Finish with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of assertive olive oil, and shredded Parmesan cheese…
White Bean and Cabbage Stew with Duck
serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the finished soup
1 onion, medium dice
2 stalks celery, medium dice
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 pounds cooked cannelini beans (either from dried or 2 [15-ounce] cans)
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
5 to 6 cups chicken stock or water
1 large Parmesan rind
3 heads garlic, roasted (see instruction below for roasting the garlic)
2 to 3 sprigs of rosemary
4 to 5 cups loosely packed, cabbage or kale, julienned
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish
Optional: cooked [smoked] shredded duck, shredded pork, or sausage, such as a spicy lamb merguez. If using sausage, cook the sausage and set aside. You can then saute the onions and celery in the fat that the sausage exuded (adding more olive oil if needed). Proceed with the recipe and add the cooked sausage (sliced ~3/4″ thick), back to the pot, toward the end of cooking.
Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and celery, and saute until they are softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chile flakes and cook another minute.
Add the cooked beans, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock or water, Parmesan rind, roasted garlic cloves, and sprigs of rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the all the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprig and Parmesan rind.
Ladle half the soup into a large bowl or blender jar. With an immersion blender or blender, blend until smooth. Add back to the pot. Add the cabbage or kale, cover, and cook until the greens are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the shredded duck (or pork) or sausage (if using) and continue cooking another 5 minutes until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Ladle into bowls. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
To roast the garlic
Preheat the oven to 400F. Trim about 1/4″ (cross-wise) off the top of the garlic heads to expose the tops of the garlic cloves. Place the heads of garlic on aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, a teaspoon or two. Wrap the garlic tightly in the foil. Place on a baking tray and roast until the garlic is very tender, about 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of their skins.