Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kale soup

Up returning from Puerto Rico I realized I had no food in the house. I was also too lazy to go alllll the way to Trader Joes or Safeway, so I opted for Whole Foods.

I have a love/hate relationship with Whole Foods. Don't get me wrong, I love everything they have there. But it's soooo damn expensive I just get mad spending all that money. Not everything costs an arm and a leg there (their bulk foods and spices are quite cheap, and their butter and milk cost the same as Trader Joes). But most everything else costs at least twice as much as it does shopping at Milk Pail- so I can't do normal grocery shopping there without practically having an aneurysm.

So last week I found myself at Whole Foods, wanting to spend as little as humanely possible while still getting enough food to actually feed myself. As I was perusing the produce section they had featured recipe cards using an in-season (read: more affordable) vegetable: kale.

Look how purty it is...

I'd never cooked with kale before, but I love spinach, swiss chard and collard greens, so I knew I'd like it. And the recipe was for a bean and kale soup: perfect for the chillier weather California greeted me with on my return from Puerto Rico.

I made the soup that night and holy cow- this soup is insanely good (and super super simple). Just look at all the healthy deliciousness!

Next time though I think I'm gotta load up on some bean-o...

First things first: the ingredients. There aren't that many, and a lot can be found in your pantry. Really the only thing you'll probably have to get fresh is the kale. (Note: the recipe called for cannellini beans, but Whole Foods was out so I got Great Northern beans instead. They weren't bad but I'd suggest sticking with cannellini.)

Here I'm using lacinato kale. There were a few kinds at the store but I seriously have no idea what the differences are between them.  This one just looked a little different. (To be honest, I didn't even realize there WERE different kinds of kale..)

And let me tell you, Kale is super kool. It's very hearty, with giant leaves as big as my head.

And look how beautiful it is. It not only has this amazing texture, but the leaves are so waterproof that water just sits in the crevices and looks like sparkling diamonds. Absolutely gorgeous.

OK, enough artsy pictures, time to get back to cooking!

Now the recipe just called for throwing the kale in at the end. But I could tell the stems are much tougher than the leaves. So I separated the stems (which have a celery-like crunch to them) from the leaves.

Then I just chopped up the stems and sauteed them along with the onions and carrots.

Depending on how crunchy you like your carrots/kale stems you can either add the chicken broth/tomatoes and simmer the soup for a few minutes until softened or add the liquid and don't simmer it at all. Me no like crunchy carrots in soup so I simmered it until the carrots and garlic were mostly softened.

Then just dump in the kale leaves (roughly chopped).  After a few minutes they'll soften and wilt, similar to spinach but not quite as much. Kale still retains a nice "body" to the leaves even when its cooked.

And that's it- you're done.

Now some of you may argue that soup is a first course, and not a whole meal of food. But you top that soup with some grated cheese, a few pieces of crusty whole wheat bread and a glass of wine and you've got yourself an AMAZING winter meal.

Note: thanks to Irene for making me feel that it's OK to crack open a nice bottle of wine any night of the week. This was a random Thursday evening- and I finally decided to drink my Foxen Pinot Noir I'd been holding on for years...

Buen Provecho,

Kale and white bean soup, adapted from Whole Food


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups broth (I used chicken broth, veggie broth works too)
4 cups packed chopped kale, stems reserved and chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can Diced Tomatoes (they called for Italian Style but I used regular)
1 (14.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook a few minutes. Add the carrots kale stems and continue to sautee at least 3-5 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes longer, until softened. Add broth and tomatoes. Simmer soup (covered) until veggies are almost at desired doneness (0-10 minutes). Add chopped kale and cook 5 minutes (covered) or until kale is tender. Add beans and allow them to heat thoroughly, 1-2 minutes. Serve hot, topped with cheese (optional- but highly recommended :).


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