It just kind of happened

I’m not the most gifted crafter of soup. I have a propensity for cooking half of the ingredients to mush, and almost always a bad case of brain fog overtakes whenever I try to imagine what spices might go with what vegetables might go with what meats. For these reasons, I stick to recipes when making soup.

However, last week I defied all my norms and created a soup to be proud of, a soup to write home about, a soup to blog about—and here it is!

I was sad when it was all gone. I think of it fondly. I need to make more.

This soup kind of just happened into being. Earlier in the week when I was scanning my freezers as a first step in my weekly menu planning routine, I discovered a quart of frozen white beans. There were also a few more containers of Swiss chard, and I had a pound of ground pork stashed in the refrigerator freezer. I tapped my lower lip, thought hard, and proclaimed that a dinner of chili was in our near future.

When I got down to work frying and chopping and stirring, I discovered a few more goodies that needed to be used up: a half quart jar of frozen multicolored sweet pepper strips, a half cup of white wine, and some celery. I debated whether or not the chili should be cream-based or tomato-based, but after a bit more lower lip tapping, I opted for the later and dumped in a pint of roasted tomato sauce and a quart of stewed tomatoes. (I also added the dregs of a jar of pizza sauce—good, but not a recipe requirement). The smells were intoxicating, the flavor was swoony.

The soup was fortifying, bracing from the chili powder and rich from the roasted tomato sauce. In fact, I’m convinced that it’s the roasted tomato sauce that transformed this soup from good to great. I think this is the first soup I’ve added the sauce to, but it will certainly not be the last. From now on I’ll be dumping pints of the glorious goodness into as many soups and sauces as I can concoct. It’s powerful stuff. Do yourself a favor and can yourself a boatload of it this summer.

A word about using frozen Swiss chard. When I put it up, I just wash the leaves, chop them up, and pop them in the freezer. The thawed leaves have a musty odor that we all find rather repulsive. However, I’ve found a way to fix the problem: dump the container of frozen leaves into a saucepan, add an inch of water, bring it to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Drain well, pressing on the leaves to get rid of all the juice, and then proceed with your recipe as normal. The flavor is delicious. (My mother reports that blanching her chard before freezing eliminates that moldy flavor. So with a little extra work, either pre- or post-freezing, you’ll be good to go.)

Ground Pork and White Bean Chili

You can substitute the white wine with chicken broth or water. And if you have no roasted tomato sauce, simply add some regular tomato sauce, or an extra pint of canned tomatoes.

This is a convenience meal all the way, baby: it’s made in a crock pot, and the leftovers freeze well, too. Whee!

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground pork
1 cup diced bell peppers (red, green, orange, yellow)
2 ribs celery, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 quart cooked small white beans
1 quart chopped chard, cooked and drained
1 quart stewed tomatoes
1 pint roasted tomato sauce
salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot. Add the pork and cook till brown and sizzling. Transfer the pork to a crock pot.

Add the peppers, celery, onion, and garlic to the fat that’s left in the pan and saute for 10 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer for another minute. Dump everything into the crock pot, making sure to scrape out all the flavorful drippings.

Add the remaining ingredients to the crock pot and cook for 4-6 hours (cook it on high till it bubbles and then turn it down to cook on low for the rest of the time).

Serve with cornbread or buttered toast.


  • Unknown

    Zoe, so if you don't like it fresh, and you don't like it frozen, why ever would you be eating it at all? Even better why would you freeze leftovers, so you and your family can suffer during more than one meal?

  • Cookie baker Lynn

    You have much more interesting stuff in your freezer than I do. I like the way you threw that all together and make magic out of it.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Zoe, Maybe that's why your family doesn't like it???

    Teekaroo, I'll use it any place that I want a rich tomato flavor—sloppy joe meat, chilis, curries, soups, roasts, etc.

  • teekaroo

    Just took a peek at your roasted tomato sauce. Sounds wonderful. I already do stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce, so I'm wondering, what all do you use it for?

  • Margo

    I make a Tuscan bean soup with chard that I made up – blogged here

    I experimented with chili in the crockpot this past Sunday (and didn't take pictures – guess it won't be on the blog). I just dumped all the chili ingredients in my crock and turned it on. No sauteing the onion (I didn't use meat, but I did even see some recipes with meat that had raw meat put in the crock, not fried first). It worked fine! Crockpots are great for soup.

  • Zoë

    Why have I never smelled that musty odor? I've never blanched my chard before.

    The soup looks fabulous. I'll have to try it. After we finish up the "leftover soup" in the fridge, that is. For me, soup gets thrown together using bits of this and that which are floating in the fridge or freezer. Sometimes they're awesome, others are not so great (like the current one).

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