Friday, June 14, 2013


You can tell I’m still catching up on recipes from a few months ago, when all these vegetable soups were just what I needed to bridge the gap between warm, comforting chilly-evening food and the fresh flavors of spring. I found this one on Epicurious (from the dearly departed Gourmet) because I was very specifically containing something with white beans, sausage, and kale—a classic combination but not one previously represented in my repertoire. It turned out to be exactly what I’d been hoping for…with one minor exception. The recipe claims it makes “6 main-dish servings,” but with 13 cups of liquid going into it, I should have known better. We like hearty portions, but I don’t see how this could only yield six bowls of soup unless they were huge mixing bowls. When I was portioning it out, I had to keep grabbing more containers out of the cupboard to hold it all, until every available surface in the kitchen was covered with bowls of soup, like some sort of I Love Lucy routine. I don’t exactly remember, but I think I got at least 10 generously sized servings. It didn’t end up being a problem—at least four of those servings went directly into the freezer, where they kept well and came in handy later—but it felt a little out of control at the time. Mostly I was just surprised that Gourmet would be so wildly off-base. (The recipe also just called for “8 carrots,” without any detail about what size. Eight of the petite carrots you buy in bunches at the farmers’ market in the spring, maybe, but definitely not eight big, fat, mature carrots. My carrots were medium-sized and after I’d cut up six, I had more than enough; any more and it would have been carrot and white bean soup. I’ve tried to clarify quantities in the recipe below.)

While I was skimming the Epicurious comments to see if other people had the same experience with the vast soup surplus (I didn’t make it through 132, but surprisingly few mentioned it), I saw a number of suggestions for further enhancements. I don’t think it really needs much help, especially if you take the original recipe’s advice and make it a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to deepen, but some of the ideas do sound good, like replacing a cup of the water with white wine, adding red pepper flakes, sprinkling Parmesan on top, or stirring in fresh lemon juice. A number of reviewers enthusiastically recommended putting a poached egg on top of each serving (or as one comment put it, “poached egg, poached egg, POACHED EGG!”), and that sounds awesome. Next time I make this, when fall is rolling around, that will happen.

1 pound dry white beans, such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
8 cups water
1 (3-by-2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
2 teaspoons salt, plus extra to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus extra to taste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa (I used chicken andouille), sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
4 large, 6 medium, or 8 smallish carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1 pound kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
  1. Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.
  2. 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, 4 cups water, cheese rind, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
  3. While soup is simmering, brown sausage in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain. (If your sausage is precooked and relatively lean, you can skip this step if you like.)
  4. Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining 4 cups water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves: 8-12
Time: 2½ hours
Leftover potential: Great! Makes a ton, tastes even better the next day, and freezes well.

Sunday, June 09, 2013


I have several green soups in my repertoire—broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, and even green bean (the point at which I actually had the short-sightedness to declare that my collection of pureed green soups was complete)—but somehow I’ve missed out on the most obvious variety. Of course spinach is ideal for soup because it you can cram a lot of it in there and it shrinks down to practically nothing. But spinach soup never sounded especially appealing to me until this Joy the Baker recipe caught my eye. So many pureed vegetable soups risk being bland, especially when potatoes are involved, so I look for big added flavors to keep things interesting, and this one had some of my faves, red pepper flakes and lemon juice, as well as an intriguingly large dose of dried thyme. (You might be tempted to use fresh, but I think dried has its own unique character and works well here.) The soup is great, fresh and green and velvety, but let’s face it, the croutons are the big stars here. Their spicy, salty, herby, garlicky, unrepentantly buttery crunch make this soup a knockout. A isn’t a fan of pureed soups and almost never eats the leftovers, but a plentiful supply of croutons was enough to lure him back for a second helping the next day. And I may be a vegetable soup lover anyway, but I’m not made of stone, and I found the crunchy, seasoned bread bites irresistible.

Making my own croutons isn't a revelation for me, but I’d never thought to put them on soup before. Now that I’ve started, I want to put them on everything.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
4-6 heaping cups stale bread cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 cups peeled, diced red potatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
6 heaping cups fresh spinach leaves
Juice of half a lemon

1. To prepare the croutons, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place bread cubes on the parchment, and set aside. Heat oil and butter in a medium sauté pan until butter is melted. Add sliced garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Remove garlic from the pan and discard. Remove pan from the heat, add thyme and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Drizzle melted butter mixture over the bread cubes. Sprinkle generously with salt and toss with your hands, then spread cubes out in a single layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until bread is golden brown and crisp.

2. To prepare the soup, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and sauté for 3 minutes more.

3. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potato chunks are cooked through. Reduce heat to low and add spinach leaves. Stir and cook spinach down in the hot broth for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender or food processor in batches. Once soup is pureed, stir in lemon juice and season with salt to taste.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with croutons.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; store leftover croutons separately from soup.