Monday, November 2, 2009

Garlicky Kale and Black Bean Soup

I love it when the two thoughts of "I should clean out my fridge" and "What's for dinner?" converge to inspire me to create something tasty and delicious. Last night was the perfect example. I knew already that I was going to make mac 'n cheese, Klassen-style, for my dear husband: macaroni baked in a thick, creamy cheese sauce topped with cornflakes, thick slices of bacon, and baked until the bacon is crisp and the cornflakes and macaroni have soaked up the fatty goodness. But my heart started palpitating at the mere thought of eating that, and only that, for dinner.

So I rummaged through the fridge, looking for anything with more nutritional punch than mac 'n cheese. I found some cooked black beans leftover from bringing soup to a friend's house. I also found one lonely potato. Thankfully, I had recently bought a bunch of kale, thinking, "I need vitamins. And kale is tasty vitamins." Add sauteed onions, garlic, and broth, and we had dinner.

The soup was hearty yet brothy, filled with color from the kale, black beans, and potato. We topped it with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese. You could definitely add homemade garlicky croutons to increase the interest and crunch-factor of this soup. And, this soup can be a good winter-time staple, since kale is a hardy winter green, and potatoes, beans, onions, and garlic are all easy to have on hand. Kale is also a really easy green to grow, so if you have some in your garden, use it up! Enjoy!

Garlicky Kale and Black Bean Soup

1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 medium potato, roughly chopped
4 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and sliced into ribbons
about 4 cups vegetable broth (using bouillion is fine)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, grated

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Saute on medium-high heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the potato pieces and the black beans, a little water (to cover the bottom of the pan) and the chopped garlic. Stir, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. When the potato is tender, add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, simmer for a few more minutes, and adjust your seasonings to taste (add salt, another bouillion cube, etc.).

While the soup is simmering, thoroughly wash your kale, especially if it's curly. Dirt and little bugs can get caught and stay hidden in its leafy folds. De-stem* each leaf (the main rib of each kale leaf is really tough and probably not tasty, although I've never tried eating one). Chop the kale into thin ribbons.**

About 4 minutes before you're ready to serve, plunge the kale into the hot soup. It will begin to wilt and turn bright green, and stay bright green for about... 10 minutes.*** Serve it immediately, while the kale is still pretty. Top each bowl with a healthy pile of grated parmesan cheese. Slurp and enjoy.

Makes about 6 servings.

*To de-stem your kale, lay each leaf down on your cutting board. Using a small paring knife, run the tip of the knife along the stem, taking the leafy parts off both sides of the tough stem.
**To do this, pile your de-stemmed leaves on top of one another, and try to cut along the longest part of the kale leaf. Chopping kale into ribbons ensures that it doesn't turn to green confetti, but maintains some shape and structure in the pot.
***Kale tends to turn a dingy brownish-green when it's overcooked... or when it's sat too long. It doesn't affect the taste at all, but it does lose some of its vibrant, colorful green. Serving your soup immediately after you throw the kale makes it more visually palatable.