Smoked Ham, White Bean, and Tomato Soup with Mint
3/4 cup dried white beans (navy or cannellini)
6 parsley stems
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 strips smoked bacon (2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock or broth
2 smoked ham hocks (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper
Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or stones. Rinse the beans. Put them in a bowl, add plenty of water to cover, and refrigerate for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and cool water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer uncovered until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain the beans, and discard the parsley and thyme stems and bay leaves.
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion, and cook until the onion is soft, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook 1 minute. Add the stock, ham hocks and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the ham just begins to fall from the bone, about 1 hour. Add the beans, and continue to simmer until the ham falls easily from the bone, about 1 hour more.
Remove the ham hocks and let them cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Discard the skin and bones, and cut the ham into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the ham and mint to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.