Southern Soup for the Soul
During the holidays, my entire eating régime is thrown out the window and onto its head. In between Thanksgiving and Christmas time, something peculiar occurs. Chewy, salted caramels are magically an acceptable excuse for breakfast, rich hot chocolate topped with malleable marshmallows replace my normal honey lemon water before bed, and a decadent beef roast needs buttery mashed potatoes as its only trimming (maybe there will be a little emerald scattering of parsley as a garnish, maybe.) Sticks of butter, heavy whipping cream, and a gallon of whole milk line the door of the fridge. Mason jars filled to the brim with leftover gravy and duck fat stare at me with their seemingly innocent hues of ivory and beige. Leftover salted caramel apple pie hides guiltlessly under a thin blanket of tin foil, confronting me in the middle of the night as I sneak out of bed for a “drink of water.”
Outside of dawdling about in the kitchen during the holidays, I do enjoy my daily jaunt to the post office to find festively wrapped packages, Christmas cards from loved ones and tin upon tin of homemade cookies. There is only one entity I do not look forward to receiving in the post this time of year.
I’m one of those people who hides January issues of food magazines, which come in the mail in the middle of December; teasing me with holy clear broth soups, detox strategies and religiously pointing out my bad holiday eating habits, which I loathe considering I have a Christmas cookie halfway hanging out of my mouth at this very moment. But, honestly, there are some days when I need deep, dark leafy greens to get me through this time of year. That is when this Southern vegetable stew makes its way to my hob. It’s speedy, stress-free and is solely satisfying, keeping you warm and content during this season of family, friends, and excessive cookie consumption.
Recipe: Southern Vegetable Stew
Note: If you want to make this dish completely vegetarian, omit the bacon and douse a few splashes of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce in with the vegetable stock to give the stew a nice smoky flavor without having to add smoked meat to the dish.
4 cups of loosely packed, washed, stemmed Southern greens (I use a mixture of collard, mustard and turnip greens)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 slices of bacon (or add a few dashes of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce instead)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped, leaves only
½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (Add more if you like heat!)
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed
3 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ lb. of frozen baby butter beans, speckled butter beans or lady peas
4 sprigs of thyme
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Shredded Parmesan, for serving
Cornbread Croutons, for serving, recipe below
Pepper Sauce, for serving, optional
Hand-tear the greens into small, bite-sized pieces.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and slices of bacon. Cook the bacon, if using, until crispy and drain on a paper towel, reserving as a garnish for the dish. Add carrot, onion, garlic, parsley leaves and red pepper flakes to the oil. Lightly season with salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, 8-10 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes. Add broth, beans, greens and thyme sprigs to the pot. Season slightly again with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer for 40-50 minutes (covered with the lid askew) or until the stew has thickened slightly.
Remove sprigs of thyme from the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Parmesan cheese, cornbread croutons, reserved bacon and pepper sauce (if desired!)
Cornbread Croutons: Inspired by Nothing But Delicious
½ of a cornbread round (This is my favorite recipe!)
Cajun Seasonings, to taste
Olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cut cornbread into1-inch cubes, drizzle with olive oil and dust with Cajun seasonings. Toss to coat.
Place seasoned cornbread cubes onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden and slightly crispy. Serve alongside stew.