One of my grandma’s simplest and most popular dishes with my family is something she calls “garbage” soup. It’s a fridge-and-pantry-staples sort of dish, made up of leftover chunks of beef or pork, lots of veggies, beans, and elbow macaroni in a rich, savory broth. There’s nothing fancy about it – it’s just good, solid comfort food.
I have made my own variation of her soup often over the years, generally omitting the macaroni and using slices or chunks of good smoked sausage instead of the chunks of meat. I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last few days, so when Mike and I were discussing what to do about dinner last night, this soup was the first thing that came to mind, and was really the only thing that sounded appealing.
One of the attorneys I work with has an uncle who has a butcher shop in Greenpoint, and she recently brought me three different types of kielbasa from his shop. We had a variety of veggies that needed to be used up, so I combined those with some chopped tomatoes and juice, canned red beans, water, and spices, and let it all cook for about half an hour. Mike brought home a bottle of Oracle Pinotage and some fresh potato rolls, I threw together a salad, and we sat down to a simple but deeply satisfying meal that came together in about 45 minutes. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Not-Quite-Grandma’s Garbage Soup
*The particular veggies listed here are what I had on hand, but feel free to use whatever fresh or frozen veggies you like
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
3 small leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, peeled if necessary, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. good quality smoked sausage sliced and/or chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes with liquid and/or tomato puree
1 15.5 oz. can red beans (or beans of your choice), drained and rinsed well
1 bay leaf
several sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tbsp. red chile flakes
1 tbsp. chipotle powder (or other chile powder)
1-2 cups water
1 bunch swiss chard, ribs removed, chopped
a handful of haricots verts or small green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Add the oil to a deep, heavy-bottomed pot placed over medium heat. Add veggies (onion through bell pepper), season with salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, tomatoes, beans, and seasonings, and add enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, stir and taste, adjusting the salt if necessary. Add the swiss chard, cover again, and cook until chard is softened. Add the haricots verts and stir well. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the haricots are bright green and tender, then serve.