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  1. Cooking

Leftover ham and cannellini beans work together in this hearty stew

My dad has a particular set of food interests.

He has come a long way since I've known him, but in general his tastes trend toward meat-and-potatoes fare and away from ingredients he didn't grow up eating. You won't find him scarfing down a beet and goat cheese salad any time soon.

I think he will like this week's recipe, though.

For starters, I came up with it as a way to use one of Dad's very favorite leftovers: Easter ham. He insists on a ham every Easter, and we often can't finish even half of it. So leftovers are bountiful.

I put some in a zip-top bag in the freezer this April and unearthed it just the other day during a freezer clean. I chopped the ham and raided the pantry for ways to transform a couple of cups of meat into a suitable dinner.

Ah, cannellini beans!

One of my go-tos to keep on hand, the plump white beans resemble kidney beans. Of all the white beans, they tend to be the largest, and lend themselves well to mashing. They're also great in soups and stews, and are used often in Italian cooking in this way.

The combination of ham and white beans and the kale I had in my fridge is pretty classic. Ham brings a salty flavor, white beans an earthy vibe and kale a fresh pop of color.

You could leave out the kale in the stew, though if you chop it into small enough pieces, it's not very intrusive.

And make sure to top each serving with a flurry of Parmesan cheese. It's worth buying the block for a soup like this and grating it freshly right over the bowl.

Ham and Cannellini Bean Stew

Olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 to 2 cups leftover ham, diced

½ cup chopped peeled carrots

½ cup chopped celery

2 small potatoes, diced

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 ½ pounds kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot.

Add shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ham to pot and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until ham is lightly browned.

Add carrots, celery and potatoes and stir. Add more olive oil if pot is dry. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add broth and beans.

Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Cook for at least 30 minutes.

Remove lid, add kale, stir and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted. Taste stew. Make sure potatoes are cooked through. Season with more salt and pepper at this point if needed. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Ladle soup into serving bowls, grate lots of Parmesan cheese over each serving and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times