To fight the winter chill, Ali Cayne devises a hearty recipe composed of her favorite ingredients.
photographs by Brittany Ambridge text by Ali Cayne
"Soup fetish, eh?" joked a good friend of mine upon first seeing my Pinterest board. There are an inordinate number of soup pictures there. Simple, savory, filling, and nurturing, hearty soups and stews are my go-to meals for family and guests.
It’s winter now, and even though my fall contribution was a soup recipe, I’ve decided that the cold weather justifies another. This one is a bit of a hodgepodge of all the things I love. It’s easy to throw together; you can even make the separate components ahead of time. My friend Charles Curtis, a Master of Wine (good friend to have!), suggests a red from the Valtellina region of Italy to accompany this dish. Add a freshly baked loaf of bread and a simple salad to round out the meal, and then invite some friends over, drape the room and table with twinkle lights, play a little Coltrane, and enjoy.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the farro and stir until lightly toasted, making sure the farro doesn't stick to the pot. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the farro grains have begun to splay open. Remove from heat. Do not drain.
In a separate pot, heat 4 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, thyme, and rosemary, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped chard stems and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt. Continue to cook until the stems are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked farro, broth, and dried cherries. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until ready to serve.
To serve, add the chard ribbons to the simmering soup and allow to wilt slightly, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with cheese, a few grinds of pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.