Sunday, February 6, 2011

Soup for a Snowbound Night

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. 


  1. Reading your recipe reminded of the soups my mother used to make when I was a child, I could not wait to come home and have some. Looks like we're having soup tonight, Thank you for sharing your secret ;-)

  2. That looks so yummy. Warming too. Have a great day.

  3. Is there anything better than making a big pot of soup on a cold windy day?
    ( Well yes, there's lying on a warm beach with one's toes in the water, but still.)

  4. Oh yum, thank you for sharing! I must get an immersion blender soon, I'm a huge fan of soup and too messy a cook to be transferring hot soup from the pan to the blender and back — something I've proved on numerous occasions.

  5. Me, too. m. I've scalded myself on many occasions. The immersion blender saves my skin--literally!

  6. Virginia isn't expecting any snow but we can always use a good soup!

    Lovely recipe.

    xo Jane

  7. I feel a bit guilty to admit that I made beef bourguignon tonight. Not quite so heart-healthy, although very comforting. We can have this delicious-sounding soup next . . .

    I'm so glad that you share recipes now!

  8. That looks so good. It would be warm and cozy on my tummy. It reminded me of a mushroom soup I make and now I am really hungry.

  9. This looks and sounds delicious. I am looking for ways to use kale and beet greens so this one is going on my list! Blending it with the blender is a good idea. Both kids don't care for the greens floating in the soup if they are too bitter. Thanks!

  10. We have been having LOTS of soup this winter is the best thing on snowy days for sure:) This looks delicious!

  11. A cook??!! Now why am I not surprised? ;o) Cooking is another form of creativity, after all... This soup is marvelous--Thank you for sharing your recipe, Gigi. I like these cold-weather flavors... We've been doing lots of soups this winter. Happy Days, my friend ((HUGS))

  12. Deeply relaxing recipe:)
    Tweaking my grocery list now.

  13. I remember your kale was often my dinner before my waitress shift! I am going to make this!

  14. I love the generosity of sharing a recipe. It always struck me as singularly selfish to not share one. I don't mean professional cooks, of course, that's their living. I mean when a friend refuses to share it just seems stingy. There is a wide open generosity in recipe sharing that always thrills me when I come across it. So, thank you.

  15. Hello sweet Gigi :)

    Kale is one of those mysterious vegetables that I am trying to get more acquainted with. I recently put it in a favourite soup recipe and loved it because I couldn't taste the kale but I was getting all the good nutrients from it. I don't seems so coarse to eat in a salad, but maybe I am wrong? Perhaps your soup recipe would be the next step towards getting more of this powerful green in my diet! Thank you for sharing!

  16. I see you discard the stems of such vegetables. Is there no hope for them in cooking? I have on occasion cut them chunk size and put into the crock pot as one of the vegetables. They always seem to come out quite soft and edible.

  17. Good point. I usually save the tough stems of greens for making stock. I also cut them up and use them in stews sometimes, but for this particular soup I don't usually use them because I puree it, and I find the stems a little to fibrous to puree well.


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