A hearty winter soup to enjoy during our freezing temperatures in Chicago. This is a satisfying dish to savor either as an appetizer or a main dish served with a salad for supper. White beans and green cabbage are classic winter ingredients and pair deliciously. Health-wise, white beans are high in fiber and a good source of vitamin B1 and minerals. Green cabbage has long been established for its digestive tract support as well as an excellent source of vitamin K.
The celery pesto is made of ingredients from the soup itself, with the addition of garlic and parmesan cheese. If you wish to make a dairy-free/vegan version, simply omit the parmesan cheese in the pesto and season it with a bit of salt, pepper, some lemon juice and a little extra olive oil. This soup is most delicious the day after preparing it.
Be sure to soak the beans the day before. It is simpler, requires less time and effort than having to do a ‘quick boil’ just prior to cooking them. The best is to simply soak the beans overnight the day you come back from the market. They can then be refrigerated a few days till you are ready to cook the soup.
1/2 green cabbage
2 cups dry white beans
3 small-medium size carrots
2 celery stalks with their leaves
1/2 medium-large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 oz Parmesan cheese
A few springs of fresh thyme
A few springs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
5-6 Tbsps Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Soak the beans the day before.
Use 1/4 of the onion as the base to hold the cloves. Make three small incisions in the onion, deep enough to hold the stem of the cloves. Insert the cloves. Alternatively, you can place the cloves and bay leaves in a small linen bag. Either way, you will discard them after cooking.
Place the beans in a large pot of salted water with the onion, cloves and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer for about 40-45 minutes until the beans are tender.
Peel the carrots. Wash the celery branches and reserve the leaves. Chop the carrots, the other 1/4 of the onion and celery finely.
Heat about 2 Tbsps of olive oil in a large French oven (cast iron pot). Add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and simmer for a few minutes until they soften.
Slice and cut the cabbage in medium pieces.
Add the cabbage to the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Continue cooking on low heat with the cover on for about 30-40 minutes until the cabbage is cooked, but not over-cooked.
Meanwhile, remove about 1/2 cup of beans from the pot and place them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade along with the celery leaves, the two garlic cloves (cut in half and center removed), a spoonful of rosemary and thyme. Process till grossly mixed.
Add the Parmesan cheese and about 1 1/2 Tbsps of olive oil and process again until you obtain a smooth paste.
Place the thyme-celery pesto in a small bowl. You may drizzle a bit of olive foil or lemon juice on top, or cover with a plastic film to preserve freshness. Reserve.
Drain the beans and reserve the cooking broth.
Heat about 2 Tbsps of olive oil along with about half the pesto in a large pot.
Add the white beans and mix thoroughly to coat them with the pesto.
Add the cabbage-vegetable mixture and mix well.
Add about 4-6 cups of the bean broth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add about 2 Tbsps of thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes till serving.
This soup can be prepared a day ahead, refrigerated, and brought back to a simmer to serve.
Serve with a bit of extra pesto on top to taste. Enjoy!