Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kale, White Bean, and Kielbasa Soup

A magical time of year is descending upon us.  From the depths of December, we have emerged, earning about a scant minute of additional light each day.  Now that we have reached March, those tiny moments have accumulated into a meaningful amount, and regardless of the temperature, we can literally see and feel the light at the end of winter’s tunnel.  As if that weren’t enough, the added bonus of Day Light Saving’s Time is around the corner.  No one is happier about these lighter days than me, but it also makes me grateful for the last few cold days that allow me to relish soups, stews, roasted chicken, and other hearty dishes that become insufferable during the hot, bright summer months.  I can handle bring; hot is a different story.  I will cling to every last minute that affords me hearty winter cooking, knowing that the dog days of summer will allow for more than enough grilling, salads, and chilled pasta salads.

And thus, kale/white bean/kielbasa soup is my latest brainchild, born of my ironic depression over losing the indulgent, lazy coziness of winter.  I will indulge until it’s too hot to simmer soup on the stove, and too hot to turn on the oven.  I’m not sure how this idea in particular got planted in my brain, but I had something very specific in mind, regarding this soup concept.  I make a lot of kale soups, but they are usually tomatoey, and I knew this one should not be.  I ideally wanted it to be pure as the driven-white-bean-snow, then studded with kale and kielbasa.  I did not want it broth-y, but rather a creamy-beany texture.  This blending was an automatic requirement, which means I get to use my immersion blender, and my immersion blender makes me grin from ear to ear.  I also knew I did not want the kale or the sausage blended. 

Kielbasa was another absolute certainty in my one track mind: smoky, garlicky half moons percolating my soup.  Sadly, I love Johnsonville kielbasa (it is like a slightly more complex hot dog. YUM.), yet I knew that I would be disappointed if I didn’t go for something less processed.  I am becoming increasingly paranoid about the quality of ingredients that I use, and a growing percentage of my pantry and refrigerator are organic, and purchased at Whole Foods.  Alas, there was only one thing to do… purchase the kielbasa at Whole Foods.  The brand is called Wellshire; it is (allegedly) humanely raised; I recognized all 6 ingredients listed on the package as actual, recognized foods.  Good enough for me.
I digress.  The soup consists of celery, carrots, onion, and potatoes simmered in a rosemary-scented broth, with a chunk of parmesan cheese rind bobbing about, giving it a lovely, umami flavor.  (The base flavor is the smoky pork fat rendered from the kielbasa, which was set aside after it was browned).  When the aforementioned vegetables were simmered into tender submission, I then added 2 cans of great northern beans, and blended it up to a quasi-chunky consistency.  The potato added body in conjunction with the beans, but the soup probably would have been much prettier without the carrot.  Oh, well.  I then returned the kielbasa to its natural environment (the soup pot where it initially became browned and carmalized), and added ribbons of curly, green kale, and continued to simmer it until all was tender and lovely.  A delicious soup, but admittedly better the next day with a shower of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, as is the nature of all good soups.  Enjoy.

Kale, White Bean, and Kielbasa Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound kielbasa, sliced in half moons
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves sliced into half inch ribbons
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrot, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
1/2 cup white wine
7-8 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese rind

-       Over medium heat, preheat oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
-       Add the kielbasa, and sauté until browned
-       Remove kielbasa, drain, and set aside.  Drain fat from the soup pot, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan
-       Add onions, carrots, and celery.  Sauté for 10 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes.
-       Add garlic, rosemary, and potato.  Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
-       Add white wine, and let reduce by half.
-       Add chicken stock and Parmesan cheese rind, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
-       Add white beans, and simmer for 5 minutes to heat through.
-       Set aside cheese rind, and using an immersion blender, blend the soup, leaving some chunks, but breaking up some of the beans.  Add cheese rind back into soup.
-       And the kale and kielbasa, and cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
-       Serve and garnish with Parmesan, if desired.

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