Kale and White Bean Stew

We’ve been busy… planting zinnias, carrots and camelias, getting compost ready for May planting time, making orange marmalade and so much more.

grow!

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

Serves: 6

  • 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!

UPDATE: 10/26/11

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.

 

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Triple Citrus Glazed Butter Cake

citrus cake with our peach-raspberry jam

For the past week or so, we’ve had fantastic magical California paradise weather, and I’ve been working in the gardens almost all day long.   Late winter veggie starts went in the ground, and one last batch of garlic.  I also planted seeds for calendula, love-in-a-mist, bells of ireland, and poppies, along with the dahlia tubers I picked up at the store the other day.  This fantastic triple citrus butter cake is all that sunshine and good weather on a plate, no matter where you live! The flavor is bright and refreshing, and it’s lighter than all these 15 layer chocolate death cakes that are floating around with Valentine’s Day coming up so soon.  Those are awesome, but this the kind of cake that you can vaguely rationalize eating for breakfast, and those are important cakes to have in your life.

 

fresh eggs make better baked goods!

This recipe is an adaptation of the Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Gourmet. I’ve substituted skim milk and added some new citrus- I hope you like it!

Triple-Citrus Butter Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (or whatever milk  you have in your fridge is fine)
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbs. tangelo zest
  • 1/2 tsp. clementine zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract (I was out of vanilla, you could use that too)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs (the original recipe suggests bringing the eggs to room temperature, but you could also just walk to the chicken coop and get three fresh ones that never were in the fridge at all)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh citrus juice (combine 1/8 c. lemon, 1/8 c. tangelo, and eat the clementine. Or a different combination, it doesn’t matter.)
  • Optional: top with confectioners sugar and jam (I used Peach-Raspberry, but any fruit would be fine).  Whipped Cream would be good, but we didn’t have any when I made it.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour an 8″ round cake pan, which I don’t own, so I used a glass dish…
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, citrus zest, and hazelnut extract.
  3. 3. If you have an electric mixer, now’s the time to get it out: Cream together the sugar and softened butter until it’s fluffy and fully incorporated (about 2 min.)  Next, add in the eggs (one at a time, and mix well in between each egg).
  4. 4. Turn the mixer on low, and mix in the flour in batches, alternating with the milk mixture. (Make sure not to over mix the batter).   Pour the finished batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles, and put it in the oven.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  When the cake is out of the oven and cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and citrus juice until it’s completely smooth.  Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cooling rack if you have one(I don’t have one of those either, you can tell I’m totally not a baker…. I put mine on a big plate with paper towel). Brush the cake with the glaze and let it cool the rest of the way.
  6. 6. Eat the cake! (If you’re thinking about cake-dinner menu pairings, we had fried chicken, braised kale from the garden cooked with our home-cured bacon, and mashed potatoes with country gravy, and the refreshing citrus flavor went absolutely wonderfully with all that).