Let’s be honest, we’re at kind of an awkward stage these days – everyone is dying for spring, meanwhile it’s still cold enough for hats and gloves. I’ll admit that I’m beginning to give my puffer coat the stink-eye as I put it on for the 150th day in a row and I’ve grown a bit tired of the heavier braises and stews that feel appropriate on crystal clear winter days. What’s a beleaguered northeasterner to do when winter refuses to give up and all I really want is to cast off the cocoon?
I have zero control over the temperature, but at least I can decide what comes out of the kitchen so I’ve begun transitioning our menus to lighter flavors like this Tuscan White Bean Soup. It fits all in one pot and serves the dual purpose of providing a warming meal and packing in lots of fresh veggies. Perfect on a cold early spring day!
Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup (yield: 8 servings)
3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 cup (1 medium) diced onion
2 cups (2 medium) large diced carrots
1 cup (2 stalks) large diced celery
2 teaspoons (2-3 cloves) garlic minced on a microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 sprigs rosemary
1 (3-4 inch) chunk parmesan rind (optional)
2 dried bay leaves
3 to 4 cups roughly chopped kale
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese for serving
Sauté the diced bacon in a large French oven over medium heat until crisp, remove from the pot to a paper towel lined plate. Add the olive oil, diced onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook for 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally until softened but not browned.
Meanwhile, mince the garlic very finely using a microplane grater so that it forms a paste. Add the garlic paste and red pepper flakes to the vegetables and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant and mellow.
Next, use a sieve to drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Strip the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary reserving the stems and finely mince the leaves. Remove the tough center ribs of the kale and roughly chop the leaves into large pieces.
Add the chicken broth, cannellini beans, rosemary stems, parmesan rind, and bay leaves to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to a bare simmer, add chopped kale, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the kale wilts.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary stems. Ladle 2 cups of soup into a blender or food processor and process at low speed until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and stir to combine. Taste and add kosher salt and pepper as needed.
Serve the soup with a sprinkle of the reserved chopped rosemary leaves, diced bacon, grated parmesan cheese, and a final drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. A slice or two of rustic bread won’t go amiss either.
Adapted from 30 Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt via Serious Eats
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used my trusty 5.5 quart Le Creuset French oven, a large cutting board, a chef’s knife, microplane grater, vegetable peeler, wooden spatula, sieve and measuring cups. If you want to add some creaminess to the soup, then a stick blender, food processor, etc. will be helpful as will a large spoon or ladle.
This soup successfully navigates the tricky waters of balancing kale’s fresh green bitterness with the light, creamy cannellini beans. Rosemary and bay leaves offer depth and there’s just a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes and garlic. A bit of salt from the bacon (when did bacon ever hurt anything?) and parmesan round out the mix. A great transitional meal that comes together quickly!