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At this time of year, when every night means another shopping trip, Christmas party or four hours of post-work baking, the last thing I want is to spend a lot of time making dinner.  My favorite quick, easy, low-stress and huge flavor dinner is Swiss chard soup with garlic, tomato and Italian sausage.  I make this so often that I had to pay attention to ingredient quantities so I could post the recipe, and as I was doing that, I realized just how versatile it is.  The chard can be any color (I prefer red or rainbow) or can be replaced with kale or spinach.  I have made it without sausage a dozen times and it’s just as good, though our favorite version has spicy Italian sausage or, if you can get it, merguez.  Tomatoes can be fresh or canned/boxed.  To me, this is the perfect winter soup: slightly spicy with sweetness from the onion and sausage and earthiness from the chard.  It is chock full of vitamins and flavor and so quick to prepare.

Swiss Chard Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage (serves 4)

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. spicy Italian sausage or merguez, casing removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves cut into 1″ wide “ribbons”
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • about 2 c. canned/boxed tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 4 c. good-quality chicken stock
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a stock pot, heat oil on medium and add sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon and then allowing to brown, approximately 5 mins. Remove browned sausage to a small bowl and set aside.  Drain any excess oil from the pan until you are left with about 1 T.; add onion and cook for 2-3 mins.  Add chopped chard stems and cook for 5 mins., then garlic for an additional 1-2 mins.  Add vinegar to the pan and stir to release browned bits from the bottom, then add red pepper, if using, tomatoes and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add chard leaves to the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 20 mins.  Return sausage to the pan and cook for 5-10 mins.  Garnish with parmesan cheese, if desired.