Like many people in the US this winter, we're spending a lot of nights hunkered down, waiting out the storm. What better thing to do on a cold, snowy evening than make a vat of soup to eat with toasted bread and cheese? Something I may not have mentioned in a while is that I was a cook in a former life. One of the many things I did every day at my job was whip up huge cauldrons of soup from scratch, usually at least three a day, almost none of them from a recipe, or if they were from recipes, they were usually ones I'd made up based on what looked fresh and plentiful in the walk-in that day. I kept the recipes safe in the top-secret vault inside my head.
It has been a long time since I cooked for a living, but I still cook every day. I don't keep my recipes secret anymore, though. Life's too short and food tastes too good for secret recipes.
So, one of the soups I made most often back in the day was some variation of potato-kale. It's a very basic soup, but delicious. I don't eat meat, so I make this as a vegetarian soup, but one could easily make it with chicken stock and chicken meat. You could even toss in a little turkey or turkey sausage. It's a great recipe for using up things you've got, and it is very, very heart-healthy. You'll notice I don't have a lot of exact measurements. I make soup by feel, smell, and taste. I measure everything precisely when I bake, but never when I cook.
Potato, Kale, and Beet-Green Soup
In a stockpot over medium heat, saute in olive oil:
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 or 2 shallots, diced
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 or 2 stalks celery, diced.
- salt and pepper
Let the vegetables soften and begin to caramelize, being careful not to scorch them, for about 10 minutes. As they're cooking, dice about 3-4 medium potatoes. I use boiling potatoes for this, not baking potatoes. You want ones that have relatively thin skin and less starch content so that they'll be nice and creamy. I scrub the potatoes well and leave the skins on, then I dice them up and toss them right in with the other veggies.
To the veggies, add enough warm vegetable stock to cover, then add more stock until it reaches about 2 or 3 inches above the vegetables. You can use homemade stock, which I usually do, or you can use store-bought. A good store-bought brand is Pacific.
As the vegetables come to a simmer, prepare the greens:
- 1 medium-ish bunch kale (between 10 and 15 stalks)
- 1 bunch beet greens (I use greens that I've cut off the tops of beets I used the day before in another recipe. Instead of throwing all those lovely greens away, I save them for this soup).
Cut the tough stems out of all the greens. Discard the stems and then chop the greens roughly. Wash them well. I give them 2 or 3 good wash cycles, changing the water each time. You don't need to dry them.
Toss the greens in with the veggies and stock, adding a bit more salt and pepper at this point. Pop the lid on and let the whole thing simmer away for a good 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so. If it needs more liquid, ladle in more stock. Taste a few times, too, and adjust the seasonings.
Near the end of the cooking time I toss in a large handful of chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley. You could add any herbs your heart desires.
The last step is to puree the whole thing. I use an immersion stick blender, and I blend it until the greens are in small pieces. The goal is to make a rustic soup rather than a perfectly smooth one.
It's great served as-is, but it's over-the-top with a little grated cheese and some croutons or toasted bread. Tonight I had it with a grilled cheddar sandwich. Heavenly.