First off, a confession—I made this soup last Monday. But as it was the Monday after New Year’s Day, it still sorta felt like Sunday. The temperature outside finally dropped to freezing, and I wanted a starchy, comforting soup full of dark greens.
This recipe is somewhat inspired by Caldo Verde, a Portugese soup consisting of potatoes, kale, and sausage. In place of the potatoes, I opted for dense, satisfying navy beans. I eat so much kale as it is, I wanted something a little different so I went with collard greens instead. I left the sausage out, but did drop in a chunk of smoked turkey neck while everything simmered just to get some of that rich, meaty flavor into the beans. You could also toss in a ham hock, or sauté some diced bacon along with the onions if you don't have a hunk of smoked turkey neck in the freezer like I did (though how it got there is anyone's guess). Or just swap out half the water with stock of any kind. And go for broke with the garlic — beans can carry loads of flavor on their little beany-backs, so why not?
I started soaking my navy beans Monday morning, and as they were newly harvested last season (I got them at the farmers' market), they cooked up nice and tender in about forty-five minutes. If yours take longer, that's fine too. Larger white beans, such as cannellini, might need more time. To be on the safe side, soaking beans overnight (if you can remember to) is always a good idea. You sleep, they soak. (My kind of cooking.)
Dahlia asked for her soup sans greens and I was happy to oblige — more collards for me, and the beans alone are immensely nutritious. I finished Daniel’s and my bowls off with a generous pour of grassy olive oil and a fresh squeeze of lemon. Soups this good, this simple, and this satisfying seem to draw people closer together…what better way to start off a new year?
Navy Bean and Collard Greens Soup
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound dried Navy Beans (about 2 heaping cups)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 small onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 small hunk (about 2 inches long) smoked turkey neck or a wing (optional)
1 small bunch collard greens, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups, discard the ribs)
lemon wedges for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. In a large bowl, soak beans overnight (or at least 6 hours) in plenty of water to cover. Drain beans.
2. In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onion and cook, about 5 minutes. Season onion with 1 teaspoon of salt, add garlic and cook, about 2 minutes. Add turkey neck, beans, and 10 cups of water and bring to a simmer.
3. Reduce heat to low and cover pot. Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. if the pot looks dry, add some more water.
4. When beans are about 10 minutes away from cooked, stir in the remaining teaspoon of salt and collard greens. Replace lid and continue simmering until beans are tender and the collards collapsed.
5. Serve soup with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. A dash of hot sauce is nice here, too.