Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bean Soup for a drizzly day

A couple of weeks ago, it was Santa Anas and fires. Now we have gray skies and even a lite drizzle. But don't count on it. This is southern California, after all. So just when you think fall has finally arrived, the next Santa Ana can blow through town. Hopefully without the added horror of smoke and ash - but still, it can make selecting your clothing for the day a bit of a challenge. Not to mention selecting what to cook for dinner. A salad with some grilled shrimp? A hearty stew? Winter squash or summer squash?

For some reason, I've been drawn to kale recently. There's something magnetic about its dark green leafiness that draws my eye every time I'm around produce. I decided that my body must be craving calcium, beta-carotene, antioxidants or the potent anti-inflammatory properties kale offers. It didn't matter to me, though - I just wanted to make something which included it's dark green loveliness.

But somehow kale seems to lack the conviviality of spinach, say. You can serve spinach with just about anything, and somehow it seems to get along. Kale, on the other hand, is the kind of guest you invite to a particular kind of dinner party. It's not something you'd expect to find on top of your pizza, for instance. Nor would you seat it next to an elegant presentation of a crown roast of lamb - or anything else with a crown, for that matter. No. Kale is more of a meet-you-in-the-library kind of vegetable, rather than either a formal attire or pizza and beer kind of guest.

So my challenge was to find a way to incorporate kale into a meal that satisfied that need for comfort on a gray and drizzly day. My recent forays to New Mexico always make me think in terms of beans and rice. Beans.......Yes, that seemed like a better partnership than rice. And definitely a soup.

Open the fridge and forage. A half a butternut squash. (What did I do with the other half? Cannot remember! Obviously not baked as usual. Hmmmmmm....) Some carrots. Good. Onion, of course. And a red potato. Excellent!

Pour some oil into a pan and add about 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 onion, quartered then sliced. Sautee until the onion is golden. Add slices of potato and and winter squash (peeled, of course), and continue to sautee for about another 15 minutes. Add about 3 cups of liquid. I used chicken broth, but you could just as easily use vegetable broth. I also put in a bay leaf and several sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.

Now, here's the thing. I used canned northern beans for this soup. If you are making it with fresh beans, you'll have to start them well before you begin this recipe. But if you decide on the "down and dirty" approach as I did, you can toss a can or 2 of beans in at this point. This would also be the time to add your carrots and kale, and if you had any mushrooms you could add them to the mix as well. If you want to keep this as a vegetarian dish, stop there. If not, you could add some smoked kielbasa at this point. If you're a "mixed couple" (one vegetarian and one not), this dish would work well, as the kielbasa can be added to just one bowl and not the other. I love meals like that, where everyone's needs can be satisfied without making the chef crazy!I'm submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Beth from The Expatriate's Kitchen

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14 comments:

Patricia Scarpin said...

My dad's favorite soup is bean soup, Toni - he would gladly have a huge bowl of this!

valentinA said...

What a lovely bowl of bean soup! The perfect comfort food I must say:)
Oh I love kale too. Too bad it's not grown in Mauritius:(

katiez said...

I love bean soup!
I hate it when the weather switches from summer to fall to summer to winter. I just get ready for one and then....
Don't know whether to light a fire or open the windows...

Toni said...

Patricia - And wouldn't I love to deliver a big bowl of this to your dad. What a great excuse for another trip to Brazil!

Valentina - I'm sure you have other wonderful veggies you could use instead, which we don't get here in San Diego!

Kate - Tell me about it! So far, it's still gray, though the rain has stopped. But I'm not counting on it - I still have my flip-flops at the ready!

ann said...

Hilarious Toni! You sure did come up with a different kind of kale. Bean soup... that sounds amazing!
Maybe that's why I have such an affinity to kale, in college I was always the girl that people invite to the library, but rarely to parties!
And since I'm such a bookhound, you'd think I wouldn't have to ask this question, but tell me, what are these magical anti-inflammatory qualities that kale posess? Maybe that's why I love it so much!

Chris said...

This soup is perfect for these fickle fall days. Looks scrumptious!!!!!

Kalyn said...

Days like that always make me think of making soup too. Love the sound of the soup with kale, which is something I've hardly cooked with but have plans to use more. So nutritious, and as you so nicely expressed, quite agreeable in the right setting.

Cynthia said...

The cold days are definitely around as I am seeing lots of soup recipes.

Toni said...

Ann - I think that must have been you I saw in the library, while the others were partying!!

As for the anti-inflammatory properties, I'm thinking that has to do with kale's antioxidant qualities. Preventing the formation of free radicals can reduce inflammation.

Chris - Thanks!

Kalyn - I think it's one of those veggies one tends to forget, especially when it sits next to the chard or spinach. But like a really well written book, it's worth re-visiting!

Cynthia - Must seem like a story from where you are!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

There is just something so warm and comforting about a steaming bowl of bean soup. I just love bean. I could eat them every single day!

Terry B said...

Toni, you already had me going with all the veggies and beans. Then when you mentioned kielbasa--omigod! Canned beans are a great way to go, for the most part--quick and convenient without sacrificing much in the way of texture or taste. No less than ├╝berchef David Burke says so.

Speaking of unpredictable California weather, on our recent road trip from San Francisco to LA, we had our warmest day in SF!

Susan said...

I love kale too. Have you tried Russian kale--the one with the purply hue? I just made some last night. Your soup looks delicious, especially with those hunks of crusty bread!

toni said...

Jenn - I agree. They are truly the perfect food!

Terry - My boyfriend is a meat man. I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm inclined to eat a few vegetarian meals per week. So kielbasa rocks!

Susan - Yes, I've tried the Russian kale and love it's purply goodness!

Nora B. said...

Toni, you've captured the soup beautifully. Soup is never any easy dish to photograph.