kale and white bean soup

Now that cold, rainy weather has finally arrived in the Bay Area, I've been craving warm, hearty meals. I thought I'd share the recipe for one of my winter standbys: Kale and White Bean Soup with Sausage. This soup is my favorite kind of winter meal: its got protein, vegetables, and starch all in one big, comforting bowl. It's satisfying, but still relatively healthy (kale definitely cancels out sausage, right??).

I've made this soup many times, and along the way have made some tweaks to make it easy and pretty quick. Of course there's no substitute for simmering a broth from scratch all afternoon, but most of us rarely have the time for that. Adding the sausage at the beginning of cooking adds a big punch of flavor to this soup without hours of simmering. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of sausage to suit your tastes. I like to use fresh sausage, and my current favorite is lamb and rosemary. You can also switch up the greens if you'd like, swiss chard is a great substitute for the kale.

Though I prefer this soup with the sausage, it is still delicious and plenty hearty without it. If you want to make a vegetarian version, I'd use all vegetable stock instead of the stock/water mix, double the beans, and be sure to use the cheese rind for the extra flavor it will add. 


Kale and White Bean Soup with Sausage
based on a recipe from Gourmet Magazine, February 2002

Serves 4-6. 

- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb fresh or smoked sausage, sliced crosswise 1/4" thick
- 6 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2" pieces
- 2 garlic cloves
- 32 oz (1 quart) chicken (or vegetable) broth
- 32 oz (4 cups) water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 bay leaf (not California)
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh Rosemary (omit if using Rosemary sausage)
- 1 (3- by 2- inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- 1  15 oz can white beans such as Cannellini or Great Northern
- 1 large bunch kale (preferably dino/lacinato), stems and large center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

Warm oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat. Cook onions and sausage, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and sausage is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add carrots and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth, water, bay leaf, rosemary, cheese rind, salt and pepper and simmer 20-30 minutes,  until broth is fragrant and delicious. If broth is not flavorful enough at this point, try adding a pinch of salt, or a little bouillon (a cube of Rapunzel is my soup secret weapon) and continue to cook a little longer. Add beans and kale, cooking an additional 5-10 minutes until kale is tender. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Best served with cheesy garlic bread.

Soup will keep for several days, and the flavors will continue to develop the second and third day.

[photo by Lisa Hubbard for Gourmet Feb 2002 via Epicurious]

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