This is one of those bean recipes where cooking the beans from scratch really makes a difference. You could try throwing this together with canned beans, but don't - it won't really be worth it. The beans play a starring role here, and cooking them from scratch produces a flavor and texture you just can't get out of a can. My six-year-old declared it one of his new favorites, and for a dish containing visible greens, that's something.
This recipe calls for cooking the beans in the pressure cooker, which is quick, easy, and reliable. But you could also turn it around and do them in a slow cooker, just adding the sausage and greens at the end.
2 cups dry navy beans or other small white beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
8 cups chicken stock
1 whole head garlic, loose paper removed but not peeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus additional chopped rosemary for garnish if desired
2 Tbsp olive oil
Parmesan rind (optional)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb spinach, kale, or other greens, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Soak the beans for at least 4 hours (overnight is okay). Drain and rinse.
Place the beans in the pressure cooker with the barley, chicken stock, garlic, rosemary sprigs, oil, and Parmesan rind if using. Lock the lid and bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, or according to the directions for white beans that came with your cooker. Let pressure release naturally - this may take as long as 20-30 minutes.
While the pressure releases from the cooker, cook the sausage over high heat in a frying pan. Brown it well, breaking it up into small pieces as you go.
When the pressure has completed released, unlock the cooker's lid and open it. Taste a bean to make sure they are tender (if not, simmer until done). Remove the garlic and let it cool enough to handle. Also remove the rosemary stems (the leaves can stay) and the Parmesan rind if you used one. Add the sausage and greens to the soup.
Squeeze the garlic out of its peels. Mash or quickly puree it, then stir it back into the soup. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. If desired, sprinkled a little chopped fresh rosemary over the soup upon serving.
Serves about 6.