What To Do With Your Parmesan Rind Collection

Most everyone starts the year off eating right. "To eat healthier," "lose weight" or "get in shape" are one of the top new year resolutions we all make. So not surpringly, everywhere I go lately, someone is telling me that they or someone they know and love are doing a cleanse, started juicing, the South Beach diet or just focusing on eating better.

In honor of helping keep everyone on the wagon, so to speak, I am making a Swiss Chard and Cannellini Bean Soup in a Parmesan Broth.

I came across this utterly simple and healthy recipe in Saturday's "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal. (If you don't get the WSJ, why not treat yourself to this impressive newspaper every Saturday? It's loaded with well-written articles about world and national news, business and marketing and the "Off Duty" section is all about lifestyles. The layout is refined and elegant and it's always chock-full of both interesting and useful info.)

Last Saturday's feature story was "A Guide to Loving Winter Greens" and you know how I like greens. The story included eight recipes from the nation's top chefs on ways to use greens. Kale, chicory, Swiss chard, collards and mustard greens.

Yes, I loved all the recipes, but when I read that this particular one was submitted by Sara Jenkins, chef of Porchetta (a critically-acclaimed sandwich shop) and Porsena (dedicated to all things pasta and located just a few blocks from Porchetta) in New York, I knew I had to make it! In foodie circles and even likely not in foodie circles, Sara is known as an extremely talented rustic Italian chef.

Plus, I had picked up a magnificent bunch of Swiss chard form Markley Family Farm at Saturday's New Braunfels Farmers Market and I had a bag of eight Parmesan rinds in the freezer. (Both Central Market and Whole Foods sells the rinds as well. But if you don't save your Parm rinds, now is a good time to start!)

So, thanks to Sara and this healthy soup that will help us keep our resolutions...at least until I can get to the city and enjoy a porchetta sandwich. Then all bets are off.

Buen provecho!

Parmesan Broth With Swiss Chard and White Beans
The Cowgirl Gourmet (http://www.thecowgirlgourmet.blogspot.com/) adapted this recipe from Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York, in the Wall Street Journal's Saturday, January 15, 2011, edition

Print recipe

A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all, or so says the Wall Street Journal.

I really enjoyed this soup because it's light and vegetarian, yet satiating. It's super quick to make, plus I got to get rid of an entire bag of eight old Parmesan rinds from my freezer! And if you don't have any Parm rinds, no worries, you can pick up a bag of them at Whole Foods and Central Market.

The Parmesan-infused broth makes it distinctive, the Swiss chard gives it plenty of vitamins and nutrients and the beans offer protein. Serve it with a salad, some crusty bread and a glass of red wine and you've got a perfect winter meal.

Serves 4 to 6

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5-8 ounces of Parmesan rinds (I only had 8 Parm rinds which weighed 5 ounces)
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
2 cups cannellini beans (I used 2-15 oz. cans, which I strained and then rinsed with water several times)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
The juice of half a lemon
Toasted country bread, optional for serving
Shaved Parmesan for garnish

Rather than throw away the Parmesan rinds, toss them in a bag and store it in the freezer. You can toss in a Parm rind to enhance the flavor of any soup or use all of them to make this Parmesan broth.

Lots of Parmesan rinds

My bag for the Parm ends

Over low heat, steep 8 cups stock of your choice with 5-8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. The rinds can be thrown away.

While the broth is cooking, clean the Swiss chard well, remove the stems and cut into ribbons.
Gorgeous Swiss chard from Markley Family Farm
in New Braunfels, Texas

Stems removed from the Swiss chard

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat just until the garlic begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled and 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons. Stir to coat.

Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer.

Allow the flavors to meld and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add a teaspoon lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon and stir to combine. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top and a dash of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Parmesan Broth with Swiss Chard and Cannellini Beans
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