Parmesan Broth with Swiss Chard and Cannellini Beans

The Cowgirl Gourmet ( adapted this recipe from Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York, in the Wall Street Journal's Saturday, January 15, 2011, edition
A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all, or so says the Wall Street Journal.

I love this soup because it's light and vegetarian, yet satiating. It's super quick to make, plus I got to get rid of an entire bag of eight old Parmesan rinds from my freezer!

The Parmesan-infused broth makes it distinctive, the Swiss chard gives it plenty of vitamins and nutrients and the beans offer protein. Serve it with a salad, some crusty bread and a glass of red wine and you've got a perfect winter meal.

Serves 4 to 6

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5-8 ounces of Parmesan rinds (I only had 8 Parm rinds which weighed 5 ounces)
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
2 cups cannellini beans (I used 2-15 oz. cans, which I strained and then rinsed with water several times)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
The juice of half a lemon
Toasted country bread, optional for serving
Shaved Parmesan for garnish

Rather than throw away the Parmesan rinds, toss them in a bag and store it in the freezer. You can toss in a Parm rind to enhance the flavor of any soup or use all of them to make this Parmesan broth.

Over low heat, steep 8 cups stock of your choice with 5-8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. The rinds can be thrown away.

While the broth is cooking, clean the Swiss chard well, remove the stems and cut into ribbons.
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat just until the garlic begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled and 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons. Stir to coat.

Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer. Allow the flavors to meld and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add a teaspoon lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top and a dash of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.