Soup

Kitchen-Sink Soup – Kale and Carrot with White Beans

Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans

I can always feel February coming because my green Le Creuset pot calls my name, asking me to fill it with, well, anything, really.  The holidays are a distant memory, and desperate yearnings for Spring aren’t making it come any faster.  Especially this winter, when we’ve been hit with storm after storm after storm, my kitchen and body and soul crave… soup.

Kitchen-Sink Soup is just that – anything that I have on hand or have miraculously thought to buy preemptively goes into my pot with broth and seasonings, then gets hand-blended into creamy perfection.  Soup is one of the easiest things to make well without a recipe.  All it takes are the tastiest and most natural of ingredients – vegetables, chicken or veggie stock, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and a protein such as beans, lentils or meat.  The simpler, in a way, the better.

But if you want a delectable recipe, follow this one, for Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans.  For this soup I had picked up a few things: a bunch of carrots with the greens, as carrot greens are good for you and provide a rich carrot smell more than the carrots themselves, 2 cans of Cannelli beans, and a big bunch of green kale.  The rest I had around, and peeled and threw in for fun.

The result?  A blend of sweet (from the parsnips, sweet potato and carrots) and bitter (from the kale), made hearty from the white beans.  Easy to prepare, and it’s provided me with about 6 healthy servings to get through a week of working from home.

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch of carrots (about 8 small carrots), scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of carrot greens, thoroughly washed, and chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 pint of clear vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 cups of water
  • I bunch of Kale, chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cans of white Canelli beans
  • olive oil to taste

Directions

  • Place the carrots, greens, parsnips, onion, sweet potato, broth and water in a medium pot (preferably cast iron), and bring up to a boil.
  • Lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 1/2 hour or until vegetables are almost cooked through.
  • Add kale and season with salt and pepper, cook for another 15 minutes until kale is soft.
  • With a hand blender or standing blender, blend soup until smooth.
  • Add Cannelli beans and cook until warmed through.
  • Add olive oil to taste when serving.
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Thai Shrimp Coconut Soup

Thai Shrimp-Coconut Soup

So last year I lived in Cincinnati, and the freezing cold temperatures of the city and my high-ceiling-ed apartment made me want to make soup everyday.  And a few resolutions for making my life better contributed to my making up a recipe for Thai Shrimp-Coconut soup: 1) Use more items from my pantry instead of jetting to the market when I’m inspired to cook.   2) Don’t buy EVERY ingredient a recipe requires.  Use my solid knowledge of food to make do (thank you Julia Child for the dose of confidence).  3) COOK MORE IN LESS TIME!  I usually plan elaborate meals when a half an hour can result in something warm and simple.  So, yes, this recipe only took about a half an hour!

Now, let me preface.  I’ve never cooked any Thai food before… never a curry.  But I love cooking with coconut milk and was craving a soup at a Thai restaurant I love in NYC.  So I literally guessed at this process and added things progressively as I went along.  The result was DELICIOUS! And it made a LOT of soup!

Ingredients – Soup

  • 1 lb bag frozen shrimp, peeled and tails removed… the rise in demand in the U.S. for shrimp has produced some dangerous sources across the globe.  Please buy responsibly.  Chances are the cheap bag from the local grocer has bad energy about it.
  • 2 cans coconut milk – I used one regular and one Lite.
  • Fish sauce – purchased in the Asian section of most grocers.
  • crushed red pepper
  • tumeric
  • Olive oil
  • a hot curry paste
  • 1 8oz bag bean sprouts
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • 1 lemon, plus more lemon juice as desired

Substitution note: I used olive oil because it’s what I had, but sesame oil would be more authentic.  And I used bean sprouts because they’re inexpensive and I don’t use them enough.  But bell peppers, carrots or a green vegetable sliced really thinly would also be great.  And you can never go wrong with a little fresh ginger zested in.

Directions:

  • Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive or sesame oil in a large soup pot on medium/high heat.  When hot, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of curry paste and mash to dissolve.  Add the thawed shrimp and saute for about 4 minutes.  Strain the shrimp out in a colander set over a bowl, and return liquid to pot.
  • Add another 2 tablespoons of curry paste, about 1 teaspoon of tumeric, the bean sprouts and 3 tablespoons of fish sauce.  Blend and bring up to heat, stirring constantly.
  • Add the 2 cans of coconut milk and 3 cans of water.  Bring up to a soft boil.  Add the juice of one lemon, taste, and add more as desired.
  • When hot, add back in the shrimp.  Cut the chives into pieces about 2 inches long, and toss in.
  • Add about a teaspoon of freshly crushed red pepper.
  • Enjoy!

What I learned: Fish sauce is STRONG! It’s literally sardines, salt and a little sugar.  It gives food a delicious richness but should be used wisely.  I added 3 tablespoons and, when everything was put together, got brave and added a 4th.  It was WAY too strong and salty.  So I added some organic lemon juice I had in the fridge, which balanced it out. 3 would have been perfect… the more you know!

Side Dishing It:

Now I used Jasmine rice as a side dish and mixed it into the final result.  My favorite way to cook rice is in a pressure cooker.  This speeds up the cooking time, makes the rice more digestible and gives it a soft texture unmatched in any other method.

Pressure Cooker Jasmine Rice Directions:

  1. Put 2 cups of water, a few dashes of sea salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pressure cooker and bring it up to a soft boil.
  2. Add the rice and cover.
  3. Once the pressure cooker comes up to full pressure (hissing and singing away beautifully), set a timer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Uncover when fully de-pressured.

Portuguese Kale Soup – Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde - Portuguese Kale Soup

I have weird comfort food cravings.  Sometimes it’s grilled sardines.  Sometimes pasta with tuna and peas.  Sometimes paella.  What can I say, I’m a Portuguese gal (and Italian and Irish, so there’s lots of other cravings that go along with comfort).

In the cold of winter, a favorite is Caldo Verde – Portuguese Kale Soup.  My father’s from the Azorean island Sao Miguel, and I’ve been there many times in my 30 years.  It’s so savory and creamy and hearty and spicy and just full of rainy/snowy day deliciousness.

So I was thrilled when I realized how easy it is to make! Some potatoes, kale, butter, chorizo, maybe some leeks… brava!  And it’s so easy that quantity and process are nothing to a bit of inspiration and flow.  I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio last year for a performing gig and upon two visits home to Connecticut my father sent me packing back on the plane with chorizo, kale from the garden and hot pepper.  What more perfect dish to make than caldo verde, no?

Bom Apetite!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bunch of kale (about 6-8 pieces), shredded thinly
  • 6 small white potatoes
  • 1 large chorico sliced in thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic (ground or minced fresh) to taste

Directions:

  • Place shredded kale in a large soup pot and fill 3/4 of the way with water.
  • Add about 2 teaspoons of salt.
  • Peel and half potatoes and include in soup pot.
  • Bring to a medium / high boil and cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove potatoes from pot and place in large bowl, blender or food processor with a cup or two of the soup water.
  • Add chorico to soup pot and turn down to low.
  • Blend the potatoes and soup water (with hand mixer or other source) until very smooth.
  • Add back into the soup pot progressively, mixing thoroughly until incorporated.  Add more water if needed to thin the soup a bit.
  • Add butter and olive oil, taste, and add more as desired.
  • Simmer soup at least 1/2 hour or longer

Serve with Portuguese rolls or toasted Italian bread and an awesome red table wine and you’re good to go!

Notes from soup #2, January, 2010

So I made this soup again the first week of 2010, when my father had sent me home some chorico after the holidays.  This chorico was finer than the last, with a glorious dark-pink inside, less fat and thin casing.  Longer than its previous brother, it had a tight, pungent sent, perfect for flavoring the caldo verde that my cold bones were craving!  I varied the process of the recipe, and turned out the same great (albeit slightly pink in tone) soup! It made me realize the amazing flexibility of such a cuisine: because I didn’t want the fresh chorico my dad had sent to go bad,  I used two long pieces instead of one.  This, of course, made me need a bit more water and potatoes.

Directions:

  • Peel and cut about 8 small/medium white potatoes into quarters.  Place in a large soup pot and fill with water until covered, add about 2 tsps salt.  Boil until the potatoes are soft.
  • When cooked thoroughly, remove about a third of the potatoes.  Using a hand blender, blend the contents of the pot until the potatoes are thoroughly dissolved.  If the broth is thin, add the rest of the potatoes progressively and blend.  The consistency should be a little thinner than a pureed sweet potato or squash soup; not watery like a standard chicken or beef broth, but thin enough that the kale and chorico will be able to slide around comfortably.  If too thick, simply add in warm water and stir until you get the desired consistency.  If too thin (like my first attempt with this trial), simply add more potatoes and continue to a thickness you like.
  • Slice the two chorico into disks about 1/4 inch thick, and add to the pot.  Cook about 10 minutes on heat just high enough to keep it at a low boil.  You should start to smell a gloriously rich scent wafting from the pot.
  • Add the 1/2 bunch of shredded kale and cook until soft, about another 10-15 minutes.
  • Drizzle in some olive oil and about 4 tablespoons of butter.

Remember, as I learned quickly, this recipe is really adaptable.  I don’t think any of my relatives ever had a recipe written down, and I never saw them measure a thing when cooking.  Portuguese cooking should be full of tasting, reseasoning, and adding personal touches.  Enjoy!

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