When I was little I never ate soup. I think that other than clam chowder from the can my parents never made it, and because I really do not like milk I never got on the clam chowder bandwagon. It's sacrilege for a born and bred New Englander, but who knows, maybe one day I'll find some really amazing non-dairy clam chowder for the lactose intolerant and milk averse New Englanders like me. Anyway the first time I remember eating soup and really liking it was when I was an exchange student in Germany, junior year of high school. There weren't a lot of things I ate in Germany that were actually good, so it really stands out in my memory, though at this point it'd be hard for me to say exactly what was in it. Tiny bits of veggies, a lot of salt, and probably some kind of meat grease, knowing those Germans. In any case I haven't had anything like it since then, but it did broaden my food horizons.
Then in law school I survived the chilly, finals-stress-laden winters with a hefty amount of Udon and Soon Duboo Jigae from my neighborhood Japanese and Korean restaurants. There is nothing better than a humongous bowl of Asian umami goodness at the end of a hard day of studying. Or the beginning of a hard night of studying, as the case may be.
Now, I'm back in Boston where it's ridiculously cold and I've been whipping up enough soup to drown an ox. Last week I brought a different soup from the freezer for lunch every day. It's a great way to deal with the work lunch situation when I'm too lazy to go buy sandwich stuff and assemble veggie sandwiches. Veggie sandwiches done right take a lot longer to make than baloney and cheese!
Anyway, back to today's soup. I had stopped buying kale because I find it too tedious to wash and trim so I always end up tossing it out after it wilts in my fridge. But last week it was 50 cents a pound at the store, and none of the other veggies were looking very good, so I had to get some. And a week later, it was starting to look a little haggard and I knew just what to do with it, a recipe I've had bookmarked for years but never got around to. Spicy, creamy, kale-y, potatoey -- it's a good one.
Kale & Potato Soup with Red Chili
(Adapted from Greens by Deborah Madison) Makes 4-6 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
8 small to medium cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
1 lb red potatoes (4-5 medium sized), cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 bunch kale, rinsed very well, pulled from the stems and torn into roughly 2-3 inch squares
32 oz (4 cups) vegetable stock
3 cups water
fresh ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper, and salt. Sautee over medium-high heat for 3-4 mins, stirring frequently, until the onions start to brown at the edges.
- Mix in the potatoes, nutritional yeast, and 1 cup of water. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook for about 5 mins.
- Add the kale and steam, covered, stirring occasionally until it turns dark green and wilty, about 4 or 5 mins.
- Add the rest of the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 mins or until the potatoes are soft and smooshable. Taste for saltiness and add fresh ground black pepper to taste.
- To thicken the soup base, either smoosh most of the potatoes against the side of the pot and stir in, or take 2 cups of the soup, puree in a blender or food processor, and then add back in.
- Let sit for up to an hour for the flavors to meld, and serve. A slab of fresh whole grain baguette would be amazing with this, but some of us are snowed in and have to make do with regular old toast. Either way, dunking carbs into this soup makes it even better.
A few notes --
- This soup is on the really salty side for me. If you're not a salt aficionado I'd suggest adding 1/2 tsp of salt at the beginning and then more at the end if it's too bland. That goes double if you're using a commercially prepared vegetable stock, unless it's a low sodium one. I used homemade stock and I don't actually remember whether I salted it when I made it.
- The nutritional yeast is also on the salty side and probably not a pantry staple for most non-vegans, but I think it's worth adding if you have some available. It adds a creamy/cheesy quality that complements the potatoes and balances out the spiciness of the chili pepper.
- If you don't have a Deborah Madison cookbook (and especially if you're a vegetarian) you should run out and buy Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone right this minute. And make the Kale with Cannellini Beans immediately -- it will make you fall in love with kale.