Years ago my doctor advised me to “eat colorful foods”. “When you look at the foods on your plate, there should be lots of color and variety,” he explained. Great advice, and easy to remember. Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients. Here’s a warming fall and winter stew that is so alive with color, it makes me smile just to look at it. Just take your basic white bean and ham soup, and rev it up with tomatoes, fresh pumpkin, and chard. My father came over to try some for lunch and went home with half the batch (I wouldn’t let him take it all). Enjoy!
This recipe calls for a sugar pumpkin (the kind you use to make pies). You can easily substitute the same quantity of butternut squash or almost any winter squash.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- One 2 pound whole sugar pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out, flesh peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (resulting in 3 1/2 cups or 1 pound of chunks)
- 1/2 pound ham hock
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 15-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained OR 1 large fresh, ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
- 2 15-ounce cans of cannellini white beans, rinsed and drained
- 6 sprigs of thyme, tied with string (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 large sage leaf (optional)
- 4 large Swiss chard leaves (can substitute kale), center rib removed, leaves roughly chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pot (5 to 6 quart). Add the onion and the bay leaves and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Then add the chopped celery, cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Then add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more.
2 Add the chopped pumpkin and the ham hock to the pot. Add the stock, tomatoes, and thyme. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, uncovered. Let simmer for an hour and a half.
3 Remove the ham hock from the soup pot, to a plate to let cool enough to handle. Add the white beans and cook for 15 minutes. Add the chopped chard, simmer until chard is wilted, a few minutes more.
4 Strip the meat from the ham hock, chop it, and return to the pot. Add 1 to 2 cups of water to the soup to thin it to your preference. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Add freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasonings to taste.