I’ve been staring out my window at the last remnants of the kale for weeks – trying to figure out what to do with the lonely bunches of leaves scattered across my garden. I love kale – it’s earthy, chewy texture just tastes like nutrition incarnate. I didn’t always hold it in such regard. For years I thought of eating it as punishment. Bitter. Limp. Mushy. These are words that came to mind when thinking of this versatile green. Luckily I finally figured out how to prepare it and now it ranks as one of my favorite vegetables.
I spent weeks gazing at these leafy greens because there are just so many ways to prepare it. Kale chips – doused with olive oil, sprinkled with sea sat and roasted in a hot oven. Simply sautéed with garlic and fresh lemon. Stirred into mixed vegetable dishes. So many options. But I had what appeared to be a bushel of kale – both curly and lacinato (AKA dinosaur – which I prefer for it’s more delicate texture) growing in bunches in the garden. So I finally decided that soup was the ticket. Thick, rustic white bean soup featuring loads of the hearty, chewy leaves.
A quick review of recipes turned up a simple yet flavorful option. AND it features my favorite flavor enhancer – Parmesan cheese rinds! I’ve been cutting these ends off of my blocks of Parmigiano-Reggiano for months – storing them in the freezer. Just waiting for the perfect opportunity to make use of the salty, pungent slabs of rind.
This is the kind of soup that tastes best if made 1 or 2 days ahead. Just cool it and chill and then warm it back up when you’re ready to serve. It’s also an excellent candidate for freezing. It’s simply a bowl of health – filled with protein as well as anti-oxidant and vitamin-rich kale. Topped with a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano… it makes me almost welcome the chilly days of fall.
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Kale & White Bean Soup
Yield: 6-8 servings
- 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
- 2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 2 quarts water
- 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 4 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 lb kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (lacitano is preferable – but use whatever kind you wish)
Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a large 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, rosemary and crushed red pepper and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and stir in kale and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper. Remove cheese rinds before freezing or serving.
Note: while I think it’s perfectly delicious as is – you can spice this up by adding some sausage or pancetta to kick it up a notch. Just cook it up and add before tossing in the carrots.