We’ve been busy… planting zinnias, carrots and camelias, getting compost ready for May planting time, making orange marmalade and so much more.
This stew is the “holy crap I’m way too exhausted to cook anything elaborate but I really want to eat something healthy with vegetables and not just pasta” dinner. If you have a lot of kale in your life right now, this is a good dish to make. Also if you happen to be short on time, energy or money. It’s can easily be made vegetarian or vegan if you want. Such a simple list of ingredients, too: greens, broth, noodles, beans, cheese.
Kale and White Bean Soup
Cooking Time: 30 minutes minimum, but you can let it simmer longer
- 1 slice of home cured bacon or pancetta, diced (store bought is fine too, but it sure seems like there are a lot of people curing there own bacon these days… you could absolutely omit the meat altogether if you don’t have any in the fridge that day)
- 1 tsp. butter or olive oil
- 2 medium bunches or 1 very large bunch of kale, rinsed and roughly chopped (any variety will do; feel free to substitute chard, collards, mustard greens or even dandelion greens, taking care to adjust cooking time for the specific greens that you choose)
- 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 oz. shaved parmesan or romano cheese
- 8 oz. of uncooked chiocciole noodles available from Bionaturae (substitute large macaroni noodles)
- salt and fresh cracked pepper
1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil for cooking the noodles. Season the water with salt.
2. In a large soup pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add diced bacon and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Add the chopped kale into the pot and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until the kale begins to wilt. Pour in the stock and bring the stew back up to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until kale is tender. If too much stock cooks off, add some water to thin the stew out again. Gently stir in the beans, and cook on low for 10 more minutes to bring the flavors together. Season with salt and pepper.
3. While you are cooking the kale, cook the noodles separately in the pot with boiling water (I cook them separately to avoid overcooking the noodles and ruining the consistency of the broth). Cook to al dente, drain, and set aside.
4. To serve, put hot noodles into soup bowls, ladle the stew over the top of them, and give a few stirs to mix everything together. Top with a liberal amount of shaved parmesan cheese. Sweet potato biscuits or sourdough bread are great with this if you’re feeling extra inspired, and maybe a beet salad.
Happy eating and have fun out in the sunshine!
I wanted to update this post with a local source for my favorite beans in the universe. West Side Renaissance Market in Ukiah sells heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Napa. They grow the best beans I’ve ever tasted- they’re meaty, rich, flavorful, and delicious simply simmered in some stock with few or no other ingredients. Up until recently, I thought you could only buy their beans closer to the Bay Area, and when I discovered them at the WRM, I bought a pack of their Cannelini beans and made this recipe. The cannelini beans from Rancho Gordo are huge, the size of lima beans or butter beans. I don’t always follow the proper instructions for cooking with dried beans, but it never seems to matter. If you want to add dried beans instead of the canned beans the original recipe calls for, here’s the instructions:
Cooked Cannelini Beans
Soak dried beans for two hours. Drain. In a large stock pot, combine beans with a lot of water. I never measure… I would estimate a ratio of about 1 part beans to 5 parts water. Keep an eye on the pot, if the water gets low you should add more water to keep the beans from burning. Add a liberal amount of sea salt and a few sprigs of fresh herbs like bay leaves or thyme. Simmer the beans on very low heat for about 4 hours, or until they are completely tender but not falling apart. Drain, and set aside until you’re ready to combine them with the other ingredients in the stew recipe above.
The pound package of beans yields more than the two cans of beans called for in the original recipe, so I added another bunch of kale and a little more broth. Just eyeball it for whatever you’re in the mood for, though, and it will be fine. If you don’t want to put in the full amount of beans, the Rancho Gordo website suggests puréeing the leftovers with some caramelized onions to make a spread for crostini, which sounds pretty divine. P.S. While I’m raving about Rancho Gordo’s amazing beans, I have to also recommend their Yellow Indian Woman Beans. J. and I love making a huge stock pot of homemade chicken broth (the full deal, with bones, carrots, celery onion, leeks, and parsley) and then using the broth to make a big pot of the Indian Woman beans. A nice loaf of bread and a salad from the garden complete the dinner, and we eat the leftovers with hot sauce and sunny-side up eggs the next day.