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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