Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quick Tomato, White Bean, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup

When you live in Wisconsin, the first day of the year in the fifties is a major victory. We air out the house even when there's a heavy covering of snow on the ground, drive around with the windows rolled down, and a few brave souls will don shorts for the occasion. Unfortunately, that lasted but one fleeting day this week, but it has definitely given me a metaphorical taste for spring. I'm more than ready to begin to transition to my literal tastes to more spring-like fare, as the days where I'll be craving a massive, piping hot, bowl of soup are happily numbered.

But while I'm still looking out on a yard full of snow, I'm happy to keep indulging that craving. There are plenty of white bean and kale soup recipes available, but my riff on a New York Times recipe is the first I've seen with sweet potatoes, confirming my theory those orange-fleshed beauties are nearly always a great substitution. Creamy white beans and tender kale go just as well with that delicious tuber as its blander and less nutritious cousin, perfectly finished with a sprinkling of salty, nutty Parmesan cheese. Fresh off the stove, there's no doubt it's a wonderful meal, but flavors meld and deepen over a day or two in the fridge, and fare pretty well when you pluck a serving from the freezer days or weeks later.

Quick Tomato, White Bean, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup
adapted from the New York Times
serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
6 cups water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 medium sweet potato (about 6 to 8 ounces), scrubbed and diced
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a couple of sprigs each parsley and thyme, and a Parmesan rind (optional – but it does add flavor; use what you have for this)
1/2 pound kale, stemmed, washed thoroughly, and chopped or cut in slivers (4 cups chopped)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
Grated Parmesan for serving (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the onion, carrot, and celery and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and juice from the can, add another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly.

2. Add the water, tomato paste, oregano, sweet potato, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, add the bouquet garni, cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just about tender.

3. Add the kale and simmer another 10 minutes, until the kale and sweet potatoes are tender and the soup is fragrant. Taste, adjust salt, and add pepper and lemon juice to taste. Stir in the beans and heat through for 5 minutes. Serve, sprinkling some Parmesan over each bowl.

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