Parmesan Broth With Kale And White Beans
Lady, where do you think I’m going to get a half-pound of Parmesan rinds? Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone goes through that much Parmesan, not even you. I probably wouldn’t even be writing this recipe up had I not made the discovery that you can buy Parmesan rinds-aplenty at a handful of stores. Both Whole Foods I’ve gone to in NYC stock them, thus I’m sure most locations do, as do other grocery stores and many cheese stops — essentially, if a place sells freshly-grated Parmesan, they have a supply of rinds somewhere. If they’re nice, they’ll give them to you for free. If they’re business-smart, they’ll charge you, but still significantly less than you’d pay for the cheese itself. However, in the future, please promise that you won’t throw away any Parmesan rinds (or pecorino Romano, or… actually, if you add cheese rinds to soups, I’d love to hear your favorites); you can even keep them in the freezer, as you would other good soup “bones,” until you need them.
Beans: I used cannelini beans for this the first time, but I spied some of Rancho Gordo’s Yellow-Eye beans in my cabinet (which are a great swap for white beans, wherever you use them) and had to use them instead, as it was just a day or two after New Years and I hadn’t gotten my black-eyed pea fix. The only downside of using a non-white bean such as this is that if you want to add the bean broth to your soup, it will change the color to something even less pretty.
How to cook dried beans: I promise, a separate post is coming on this. In the meanwhile, if you have time to soak your beans (cover them with way more water in a bigger bowl than you think you’ll need and leave them to soak for 8 hours or up to 24), do it, I find that it cuts stovetop time in half, or at least down by 1 hour. I dump it, soaking liquid and all, into a heavy pot, add more water (plus any aromatics you’d want, herbs, bay leaves, spice, onions, or garlic, but hold off on the salt for now) and bring the pot to a full boil. Boil it for one full minute, skimming any foam or, ahem, “scum” that floats, then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer possible, checking it from time to time and adding more liquid if needed. Your beans, depending on variety/age/if you soaked them, will take 1 to 3 hours to cook from here. My soaked-overnight white beans took just 1 hour. Once they are mostly softened, you can add salt to taste. Store them in their cooking liquid, which you should seriously consider adding to any/all soups as extra broth. Don’t dump all the flavor down the drain. I’ve also cooked beans many times, usually without bothering to soak, in a slow-cooker, for anywhere from 2 1/2 to 5 hours on HIGH (or longer on LOW). Yes, it takes longer, but the beauty of the slow-cooker is that it’s hands-off, while a stovetop needs to be somewhat monitored.
Not technically vegetarian: Strict vegetarians do not eat Parmesan as calf rennet is used in production. (More here.)