As long as it's still January, I fear we will continue hearing about detoxes and cleanses, including those of the celebrity variety.
I do my best to eat a balanced diet, but sometimes it's hard to keep up, especially when I have a three-year-old running about (jumping around pretending he is a dinosaur of the carnivorous variety would be more accurate).
Mostly we eat what he eats. Sometimes I eat what's left on his compartmentalized kid plate after it's been sitting for a while -- shriveled peas, slivers of stale cheese, dried out tortellini.
Not so long ago I was talking to a cashier at Trader Joe's. He gazed at my son sitting in the front of the shopping cart and mentioned that he had a two-year-old daughter at home. Somehow, we began discussing the five-second rule and how now that we're parents we've inevitably cast such silliness aside.
"Five seconds on the floor, thirty seconds, is there really a difference?" He shrugged, though I could tell he was sincerely hoping I would agree.
I nodded then asked, "Do you ever pick up food from the floor and just eat it?"
"Yeah," He admitted, his eyes shifting away, perhaps from embarrassment. "Definitely."
Let me clear something up right now. There is no shame in picking up an old cracker, dusting it off (this, to me, is what easily constitutes a "cleanse") and popping it into your mouth, especially after you've been awoken multiple times in the middle of the night for no apparent reason by a little human and just can't think very clearly now that daylight has arrived.
To all the highly-ambitious, disciplined individuals who are currently engaging in detoxing and cleansing activities involving solid or liquid food items other than old crackers, I commend you. The best I am going to be able to do this year I'm afraid, is clean out the pantry. Which I think in some ways, is equally as important as cleaning out one's colon.
Now. Cleaning out the pantry doesn't necessarily mean throwing everything out. I for one hate wasting food and am always trying my utmost to make sure nothing goes to waste. However, if you've amassed odds and ends of dried beans over the course of the past twelve months as I have, soup is an ideal vehicle for using them well.
Here's a hearty and satisfying winter "stoup" - a stewy, hearty soup, versions of which you'll find in any French or French-inspired cookbook from grand dame Julia Child to restauranteur, Jody Williams.
You can use a variety of beans, as long as there are some larger, sturdier ones mixed in with smaller types. Beans of nearly any kind have an affinity for dark, leafy greens and pork. I used a nice ham hock - a cured but uncooked ham - from the Berkshire hog we'd purchased from Farmer Jeff in the Fall.
If you lack access to a hock, bacon or a ham bone will suffice as well. The greens used here also lend a mineral flavor which cuts through the richness of the pork and starchiness of the beans.
Get your kitchen in order and make this - very, very soon. Then, feel pleased as you sit back and eat a bowl of this satisfying soup, your pantry well cleansed.
Hearty Legumes and Greens Soup
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup lima beans
1/2 cup pinto beans
1/2 cup green lentils
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 yellow onion
1 fennel bulb
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, finely ground
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 uncooked ham hock
Freshly ground black pepper
Place chickpeas in a bowl, covering with at least two inches of cold and allow to soak overnight. In a separate bowl, place lima beans, pinto beans and lentils, cover with water and allow to soak overnight. The next day, drain and set the two separate bowls aside.
Thoroughly wash chard. Remove leaves from stems, roughly chop. Finely dice the stems. Peel and finely dice the onion. Trim off stems and finely dice the fennel. Mince the garlic clove.
Over medium heat, place 1/4 of olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the chard leaves, stems, onion and fennel. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 12-15 minutes.
Stir minced garlic, ground fennel seeds and tomato paste into the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add ham hock. Add drained chickpeas then cover the entire mixture with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining reserved beans and lentils then add enough water to cover. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the soup becomes quite thick and all the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper. The ham may have added all the salt that you will need.
Remove ham hock. Trim all the skin and meat off the hock and cut into small pieces.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, add pieces of ham and additional pepper. Garlic croutons are a nice addition as well.
Adapted from Jody Williams' Buvette.