John Pleshette’s White Bean and Kale Soup

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I love John Pleshette’s recipes – they are always seasonal and delicious.  He’s an actor and a foodie who shares with us his weekly recipes.


I usually make soup with homemade stock, either beef or chicken.  But in this case, I wanted the flavors to come solely from the smoked ham hock and the cooked garlic. If you saute the kale just before serving, it remains crisp and forest green. Substitute spinach, chard or cabbage, if you prefer.  I like the cavalo nero, which reminds me of Tuscany.


Serves 6

1 cup of cannellini or navy beans
1 smoked ham hock
2 heads of garlic
1 bunch of black kale
fresh parmesan reggiano
flavorful virgin olive oil

Have your butcher saw a smoked ham hock into thirds.

Pour the beans into a large saucepan. Cover with water by two inches. Add the ham hock. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Cover and allow to sit for at least an hour.

Drain the beans in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Remove any stones or damaged beans.

Separate cloves from two heads of garlic. Trim off the root ends. Crush lightly to remove skins.

Reserve two cloves for later.

Place the garlic in your soup pot along with the beans and ham hock. Cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Season with white pepper.

Loosely cover the pot. Simmer on a low flame for about an hour or until the beans are tender. Turn off the heat.

Wash and drain the kale in a colander. Trim an inch off the stems. Slice cross-wise into 1/4 inch strips.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans from the pot. Remove the ham hocks and when they cool, pluck the meat off the bones.

Using either a food processor or an immersion blender, puree the remaining beans and garlic. Return the whole beans and pieces of ham hock to the pot. Salt to taste.

Thinly slice two clove of garlic. Add 3 tbsps. of olive oil to a saute pan. Over medium heat, cook the garlic till you can smell it.

Add the kale in bunches, tossing gently with tongs till it all has wilted. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook for another 2 minutes. Salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring the soup to a simmer. Stir in the kale.

Serve with fresh-grated parmesan and a drizzle of a fruity or peppery olive oil.

CellarWise Wine Pairing
The hock is worth noting when matching this dish, but the kale’s the issue. Its assertively green flavors call for a white in the middle of the spectrum; nothing too fat/round (Viognier) nor too bristling (NZ Sauv Blanc). Crisp, mineral, with flavors like green apple or pea. The ’08 Reine Juliette Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Languedoc “Terres Rouges” (France, $9) is just that, with a softness on the palate and great acid on the finish it complements the kale’s tartness. The ’08 Handley Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley (Calif, $15) has spicy apple and flinty green melon notes, the ’08 Oisly & Thesee Sauvignon Touraine “Les Gourmets” (France, $8) brings straightforward lime and herb flavors, but both will match flawlessly. Top pick is the ’07 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco Dolomiti (Italy, $14), a beautifully chiseled white with refined fruit and a steely nature that will become one with the soup. Enjoy.