White Bean, Chard and Emmer (Farro) Soup

My husband recently challenged me to find recipes that use ingredients from as many departments in the Co-op as possible to demo in the store (I will admit that he had an ulterior motive for this since he is the Grocery Manager at the Cordata co-op).  Recently, the Member Affairs Committee had a retreat meeting at Ciao Thyme Catering, and they had a bunch of back issues of Edible Seattle that they offered up to us.  I took a few because I thought that they might have some great NW recipes in them, and indeed, that is where I found my challenge winning recipe!  It was published in the March/April 2009 edition, and it made my mouth water just reading the recipe.

White Bean, Red Chard and Emmer soup was a winner for many reasons.  It has ingredients that can be found locally in season, with the exception of the white beans, olive oil, and tomato paste (chicken stock can be made from WA chickens in your own kitchen).  This recipe has ingredients from six departments in the Co-op, which is why it was the winner:

  • Salmon Creek Farms pork shoulder from the Meat Department
  • Dry white wine, of course from the Wine Department (this gave the soup an intoxicating aroma!)
  • Tomato paste and chicken stock from Grocery
  • Organic red chard, carrots, celery, yellow onion, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and local garlic from Produce
  • Parmesan cheese from the Deli Cheese department (for garnish, yum!  I love the Reggiano from Italy the best)
  • Emmer and white beans from Bulk

Emmer is a pretty cool grain that most of us don’t have much knowledge of – it is an heirloom wheat variety that is grown by the Lucy family on Bluebird Grain Farm in the beautiful Methow Valley.  Emmer, or Farro as it is called in Italy, is a low-gluten, high protein wheat whose structure is so different from modern wheat that many people with wheat/gluten sensitivities can eat it (every body is different, and if you have Celiac or a high gluten-intolerance, you shouldn’t eat this grain).  I have only been “off the gluten” for a little over two months, so I won’t be trying Emmer myself for at least another six months or so, but I am excited at the prospect of being able to use the flour in baking if I am able to tolerate it!

I was told that the Emmer was a great addition to the soup because it “popped” when you bit into it and added good dimension.  I got very favorable responses from customers on the flavor of the soup, and its use of ingredients (did I mention the intoxicating aroma?).  One person said it was one of the best soups they had ever tasted, and another customer was floored because her husband (who doesn’t like chard) was enjoying his hearty sample!  All in all I say it was a great success with everyone.  You can easily make this vegetarian – just omit the pork shoulder and use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

photo white bean chard emmer farro soup

White Bean, Chard, and Emmer Soup © 2010 Sassy Sampler

White Bean, Red Chard, and Emmer Soup


  • 1 pound pork shoulder, chopped into 1” stew pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2T olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped into half moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1T chopped fresh thyme
  • 1T chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2c dry white wine
  • 8 c chicken/vegetable stock (not broth)
  • 1/2c emmer/farro grain (or short grain brown rice for GF)
  • 1c white beans, soaked overnight, or 2 cans white beans (I used Westbrae Great Northern Beans in my demo and they were great)
  • 1 bunch red chard (about 3/4 lb), chopped into 1” pieces (see below for instructions)
  • 1/2c chopped fresh parsley
  • grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Season the pork pieces with salt and pepper.  When the pot is hot, add 1T of the oil, then add the pork and cook until browned on all sides, turning pieces only when they release easily from the pan.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining T of oil to the pan, then add the onion, celery, and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add garlic, thyme, rosemary, and tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and stir for a minute or two.  Add the white wine, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the stock, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the emmer (or rice), beans, chard, and reserved pork, and cook at a bare simmer, covered, at least one hour and up to three, until the grain, beans, and pork are tender.
  4. Before serving, stir in the parsley, and season to taste.  Serve the soup in big bowls with hunks of bread (or the Swan Bakery’s yummy GF rolls), garnished with Parmesan cheese and a swirl of good olive oil.

Vegetarian Version:

Skip step one, and add all the oil at the beginning.

To Prepare Red Swiss Chard for cooking:

  1. Wash chard thoroughly—two to three times.
  2. Slice chard along both sides of the stem and discard.
  3. Fold leaves in half, then fold them in half again (lengthwise) and cut into 1” pieces.

p.s.  I made the most amazing beef stew this weekend with the frozen, local, grass-fed beef from Bennett Cattle Company in Everson and some delicious gluten-free biscuits with the Swan Bakery’s Gluten Free Mix in bulk – expect a demo, or at least the recipes in the future!

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