Fall, my favorite time of year, has finally arrived at my mid-Florida home. Here the season involves none of the drama of more northern climes — leaves turning to brilliant red and gold, the arrival of freezing weather, and mountains of leaves to rake. Instead, our fall is a more subtle affair, signaled by a small, but ever so welcome, drop in the heat and high humidity that characterize this place for six months of every year. And with this change, hearty soups and stews suddenly seem so very comforting and “right” for dinner.
In this recipe, I have turned for inspiration to the Cuban cuisine that has been a much loved part of my Florida home’s food heritage since the 1800s. This soup is a spicier take on Caldo Gallego Cubano, a classic, comfort food soup of white beans flavored with ham, chorizo sausage, greens, onions, potatoes, and garlic. Although I have used dried beans for this soup, instructions are also provided for substituting canned beans should you prefer to use them.
1/2 pound dried white beans (canellini, navy, great northern, etc.) or four 15-ounce cans of the same white beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon peeled and finely minced garlic
(Optional) 1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/4 pound smoked ham, diced
1/4 pound chorizo sausages, sliced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large potato, peeled and cut into large cubes
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound collard (or kale) greens, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt (if needed) and black pepper, to taste
- If using dried beans for this soup, soak them overnight in one quart water, drain them, and rinse them well. Boil the soaked beans in one quart of water for approximately 50 minutes (or 4-5 minutes in a pressure cooker) until just tender. Set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven or stock pot set on a medium-heat burner, sauté the onions in olive oil for two minutes until wilted. Stir in the garlic and optional bell pepper (if the later is used) and sauté for an additional two minutes. Stir in and sauté for an additional minute the ham, chorizo, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, and crushed red pepper.
- Add the cooked dried (or canned) white beans, their broth, the chicken broth, potato, collard (or kale) greens, vinegar, sugar, and (if needed) additional water to cover. Simmer for 30-60 minutes. Taste, correct the seasoning (if needed), and serve. Serves 6 as a main course soup. As with many bean soups, this one tastes even better on the second day.