kale and white bean soup

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After all of the junk I ate over the holidays I decided I needed to atone for it in the new year and the first food that came to mind?  Kale.  It’s so good for you and I am actually quite a fan of it so it was not difficult to convince myself to seek out kale-based recipes.  Other foods that are good for you?  Carrots, white beans, garlic, and onions.  Check, check, check, and check.

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Last week was very cold with temps in the single digits at night so soup sounded like an especially excellent idea and also an easy way to combine all of the aforementioned ingredients.

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The recipe recommended adding kielbasa or other smoked sausage so I did, though the soup could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth.  It would still be excellent with these changes though I am glad I used the kielbasa because it definitely added a nice smokey dimension to the soup and made it more hearty.

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Another key ingredient that I have never once added to a soup before is a hunk of parmesan cheese rind.  It totally works.  It partially melted into the soup adding a salty creaminess though there was still a substantial chunk of cheese left after it was done cooking that I discarded along with the bay leaf.  This may be my favorite new soup and it was very simple to make.  Certainly it would have been a little healthier without the kielbasa and parmesan but overall I think the good far outweighs the bad and it’s definitely a good way to start the new year!

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Kale and White Bean Soup (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.

Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.

While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Cooks’ note: Soup is best if made 1 or 2 days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered. Thin with water if necessary.

a dish that will keep the vampires at bay

After discovering last year that I love kale I wanted to find another way to prepare it because even though I could eat kale chips until the cows come home I thought it might be nice to diversify my kale repertoire.

This preparation is equally as simple and slightly more flavorful with the addition of not one, but two different cuts of garlic (sliced and minced) and red pepper flakes.  You can go crazy with the garlic– the recipe suggests 5 to 6 cloves, it just depends on what your plans for the rest of the evening are.  You for sure will be breathing it all night if you go full on with the garlic but on the bright side you will be warding off colds and vampires in equal measure.  Not bad things to do.

The kale is so tender and well-flavored that I could eat a giant bowl of it, and in fact did.  It makes a great side along with fish or pork or chicken or really any old thing you want to pair it with.  Yeah kale!

Kale with Double Garlic (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 pound kale, collards, or broccoli raab, with stems under ¼” thick, well washed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced garlic, about 5 or 6 cloves, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water
  • Lemon wedges

Coarsely chop the stems and leaves of the kale.

Place the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan.  Add the sliced garlic, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute.

Add the kale and the stock or water.  Cover and cook over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and just tender but still a little firm.

Uncover the greens and continue to cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, until the liquid has all but evaporated and the greens are quite tender.  Taste for seasoning and add red or black pepper and salt as needed; add the remaining minced garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve, with lemon wedges.

kale chips!

Yep, I said kale chips.  Wha-wha-what?  This from the same lady that brought you cherry pie, blueberry cobbler and strawberry cupcakes in recent weeks?  Yes, and those are precisely the reasons why kale chips are now called for.

I’m going to be honest with you, until about a year ago I had never eaten kale.  It just looked (and sounded) like it would taste bad.  I envisioned it being bitter and chewy and not nice at all.  But oh was I wrong!

There are several kinds of kale– I usually buy the curly-leafed kind that you find in grocery stores, but this weekend at the farmer’s market they had this lovely blue-green, flat-leafed variety and I couldn’t resist.  I’m all about aesthetics.  Plus, the flat-leafed kind takes less time to bake– a major bonus during the summer months when you want to have your oven on as little as possible.

Apart from kale the only other ingredients you need are olive oil, salt, and pepper.  So simple!  You just rinse the kale (I put mine in my salad spinner to dry it off, but you can also pat it dry with a paper towel), toss it will a little olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper and that’s it!  Anyone can do this. 

You might think that you are making more kale chips then you really need but be forewarned: what starts out looking like the above image winds up looking like the below image:

Yeah, it shrinks a little…

This is the tastiest health food you’ve tried in a while.  It tastes like it should be bad for you but is really so good for you.  It’s packed full of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, and calcium.  I just read that on wikipedia.  Apparently it is also an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and may contain anti-cancer properties.  Can Doritos do that?  I think not.  Better get to it!

Kale Chips

  • bunch of kale, rinsed and dried
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Remove kale from thick stems.  (Discard stems.)  Toss in bowl with small amount of olive oil (just enough to coat the kale) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake on rimmed cookie sheets for 25 minutes for flat-leaf kale or 32 minutes for curly-leaf kale.  (You want the kale to be crispy like a potato chip!)