The fact that a cabbage based soup requires a large quantity of cabbage means that no matter what the originally intended use, I often end up using some of the head for a big pot of soup. Cabbage based soups are delicious. Unfortunately for my blog they are not terribly photogenic. They are typically monochromatic—cabbage being particularly compatible with other pale foods...potatoes, shell beans, turnips, leeks, onions.... To make things worse, these soups also have a bit of a watery and lumpy look about them. Several times I have intended to post the recipe for the most recent incarnation of a cabbage soup to come out of my kitchen only to look at the pictures and decide not to.
But this time, I decided to go ahead with a post because this batch was especially good. When I made the soup, I expected that we would be enjoying it for several days. It was gone in two. Perhaps it was the addition of a bit of smoked ham (I had some left from my Warm Cabbage Salad).... Perhaps it was the fact that I added a little more onion than I usually do (after a favorite Kale & Potato Soup from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food).... I'm not really sure. Whatever it was, I will definitely be making this soup again. And it will be taking its place at the top of my mental list of "favorite things to make with that large head of cabbage."
Cabbage & White Bean Soup
2/3 c. Cannellini beans (about 4 oz.), soaked over-night (or "quick-soaked"), drained and rinsed
5 T. Olive oil
sprig of thyme
6 oz. smoked ham, rind removed and cut in a 1/2-inch dice (1 cup diced)
2 medium onions (10 to 12 oz.), halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1 medium Idaho Potato (about 12 oz.), peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced cross-wise 1/4-inch thick
12 to 14 oz. wedge of green cabbage, core removed and cut cross-wise in 1/4-inch ribbons (if the wedge is very fat, halve it lengthwise before slicing)
1 quart chicken stock (or low-salt canned broth)
In a small saucepan, cover the beans with water by two inches. Bring to a gentle simmer. Skim and discard the foam that rises to the surface. Add a tablespoon of olive oil along with a sprig of thyme and cook until the beans are tender and soft, stirring occasionally and adding salt to taste when the beans are half cooked. Reserve the beans in their cooking liquid. (Beans may be prepared ahead—store in the refrigerator.)
In a heavy soup pot set over moderately high heat, warm 2 T. of the olive oil. Add the ham and sauté until golden brown in spots—2 to 3 minutes. Remove the ham to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 T. of olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, tender, and slightly browned—about 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant—1 or 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and cabbage along with a generous pinch of salt (be careful, the ham is salty). Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minutes—the cabbage will start to wilt.
Pour in the stock. Raise the heat, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the cabbage and potatoes are just tender. Add the beans (along with their cooking liquid) and ham. Return to a simmer and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt if necessary.
Makes 2 quarts soup.