Kale, Tomato and Butterbean Soup

Remember that game “telephone” that you’d play as a kid?  One person whispers something into the next person’s ear, and that person would whisper what they heard to the next person and after 10 kids, you’d have a totally different phrase?  I love how recipes work kind of like that.  Each person translates some version of a dish that they’ve learned in the past, and then the next person creates their own rendition… over time we’ve got a beautifully diverse spread of dishes representing various locales, cultural specialties, dietary needs and creative explosions.

I have the awesome luck of living next to Chandra, one of my favorite chefs of all time, and the Head Chef at Cafe Gratitude.  Chandra is one of those people who appreciates every vegetable that comes into season and knows how to rock simple ingredients into a knock-your-socks-off kind of dish that keeps the flavors of the original ingredients roaring.  In Chandra’s never-ending generosity, she spent an evening showing me this heart-warming and tantalizing soup recipe and introduced me into making the holy trinity of mirepoix– the base for any soup or sauce from scratch.  I share this recipe with you as a sort of rendition of what she showed me that evening.

A word of caution:  you may never buy stock, bouillon cubes, or broth again.

To serve 4 people you will need:

  • 1.5 lbs of carrots diced
  • 1/2 a small bunch of celery diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-5 garlic cloves (depending on your opinion of garlic)
  • 4 large branches of fresh thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can butter beans (or great northern beans)- do 2 if you really like those beans
  • 1 bunch kale (curly or dino.  Both are great) cut into strips about 2 inches long
  • 1/3 a bottle of white wine or cooking wine (save another 1/3 to drink while you wait, and end the meal with the last 1/3 like a champ)

Steps (takes about 1.5 hours.  Patience counts and really makes this soup soar!):

  1. Caramelize carrots, celery and onion until brown in olive oil in bottom of large pot on mid to high heat with the full thyme branches, then add cloves cut in quarters until they are cooked through.  Tip: keep it on medium and don’t move it around much.  That’s the key to caramelizing.  Patience and waiting.
  2. Add wine and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until it’s reduced to half it’s size
  3. Add water up to the halfway point on the pot
  4. Let that come to a boil and then let it simmer at medium heat for 30 minutes with the lid on to absorb the flavors.
  5. Pick out thyme sticks (they should have lost most of their leaves by now).
  6. It’s at this point that you might take it all of the stove and store this as the most amazing broth in the world for a different type of soup.  You could also continue with this recipe and move onto #7.
  7. Add the tomatoes and white beans (with juice).  Let sit for about 10 minutes.
  8. Bring to simmer and then add the kale.  Cook until the kale is relaxed then add at least 1 tablespoon of salt, but most likely much more.  Taste until it’s just right for you.

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