Parmageddon Day 5: Swiss Chard and Tomato Soup

Friday, April 12, 2013

As we close our series on Parmesan Cheese, I wanted to highlight a fabulous cooking technique a lot of people don't know about sadly, but something that everyone should be using: the butt of the cheese.

You know when you get the wedge of the imported parmesan and you end up towards the tough end and then throw it out? DON'T!!! Toss it in a soup or broth to infuse it with parmesan flavor! It adds a wonderful background of parmesan goodness to any soup, especially if it's tomato-based. Here's an example using a very simple soup of tomato and chard, the parmesan cheese at both the beginning and end to bring the entire dish full circle.

This soup came together from inspiration drawn on my weekly farm delivery. Swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens grow like weeds here in western Washington. I mean literally, you are surrounded by the stuff at any market and are certain to find at least one bunch in your farmer's box. I was getting sick of the same sautéed chard dish and decided to make something hearty and super flavorful. I took a turn from the classic Italian ribolata and keeping the flavors simple but bold, this satisfying and healthy soup was born in less than 40 minutes. The kids loved it as well, and being full of vitamins and minerals I felt amazing being able to serve it to them.

Swiss chard has a milder and sweeter taste than kale or collard greens (more bitter) so it gave a very pleasant overall taste to the soup. The tomatoes added acidity and great color, and the classic onion/carrot/celery base of soup gave great foundation. I kept the herbs very minimal here, using only thyme so as not to overpower the sweetness of the chard. To finish off for the perfect bite, I add lots and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese right on top of the hot soup. And for added texture, some crunchy croutons that soaked up the broth just beautifully.

This soup is super low fat and healthy, filling without being heavy, and leaves you guiltless and satisfied. For the kids I added some cooked ditalini pasta to their bowls; you can add alphabet or star pasta as well for a fun dining experience. And don't forget the crusty bread to slop up that delicious broth! Enjoy!

Swiss Chard and Tomato Soup with Parmesan Cheese
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bunch swiss chard, tough ends removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 (24 oz) can whole or chopped tomatoes (recommend San Marzano)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (recommend Swanson brand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 parmesan rind and freshly grated parmesan cheese (for serving)
crunchy croutons (for serving; optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables begin to burn, lower the heat and continue to cook. Add the garlic and chard and cook another minute, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes -- if using whole then gently break them up with a wooden spoon as you mix them in. Add the broth, thyme leaves, and parmesan end and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil then cover with lid, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 30 minutes for flavors to develop and for chard to become very tender.

Taste the soup and adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve, ladle some soup into a bowl. Top with a generous amount of parmesan cheese and a couple of croutons if you like. Serve piping hot with some crusty bread.

Make Ahead Tips:

This soup can be completely made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use. It reheats beautifully, so it's perfect to make a day or two ahead of time if you plan on having a busy week ahead.

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