White Bean Soup with Sausage & Swiss Chard
5 T. Olive Oil, plus more for garnish
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ c. Great Northern Beans (about 10 oz.)—soaked over-night
2 t. minced Thyme or Rosemary
12 oz. Italian Sausage links—pork or chicken
2 medium onions (1 lb.), cut in a 1/3-inch dice
2 medium leeks, white and pale green only, cut in a 1/3-inch dice and rinsed thoroughly
2 medium Yukon or Idaho Potatoes (12 oz.)
4 c. Chicken stock
1 bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed, leaves cut into ½-inch wide ribbons and rinsed thoroughly to remove any grit (4 cups packed—about 6 oz. trimmed weight)
Heat 3 T. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to sizzle—do not let it brown. Drain the beans and add to the pot along with the Thyme or Rosemary. Stir to coat with oil. Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two. Bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender—about an hour and 15 minutes. Add salt to taste when the beans are half cooked. Beans may be cooked ahead. Bring to a simmer before finishing the soup.
About an hour before serving the soup, heat 2 T. olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned—about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a 375 degree oven and continue to cook until the sausage is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool, then cut the sausage into a 1/3-inch dice and reserve.
Meanwhile, reduce the heat under the soup pot to medium-low and add the onion and leek along with a generous pinch of salt. Sweat until very tender, stirring occasionally—about 15 to 20 minutes. While the onions cook, peel the potatoes and cut into a 1/3-inch dice. When the onions and leeks are tender, add the potatoes and enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender—15 to 20 minutes. Add the beans, along with their liquid, the diced sausage and the Swiss chard. If the soup is too thick, add water or stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chard is very tender—about 10 to 20 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Ladle soup into shallow bowls and top with shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 3 quarts soup to serve 6 to 8.
[Gingerbread Recipe Note: I altered the recipe slightly. I reduced the salt to 3/4 t. and I doubled the amount of cloves. I also reduced the baking soda to 1/2 t. and the baking powder to 1 1/2 t. I baked the cake in a 9-inch square pan.]