Soup usually starts something like this : I pull vegetables from the fridge. Perhaps a jar of roasted tomato sauce from the freezer. I'll likely start a pot of rice to accompany it. Maybe some irish soda bread if I have the forethought. The veggie chopping begins. It always starts with onions. Diced or sliced and sauteed. The veggies get cooked according to their time needs. Peppers, onions, and garlic first. Maybe some mushrooms. Followed by potatoes or carrots. Green beans, peas and chopped greens are added at the very end so they are just gently cooked before serving the soup.
I don't really follow recipes anymore. I may look up a recipe to get an idea..... but it's full culinary ad-lib from there on out. A little salt and pepper. Maybe some lemon juice to add some freshness. Smoked Paprika. Cumin. Or maybe an Italian herb blend. Red pepper flakes on my own bowl when it's all finished. Smokey flavors pair well with cilantro. Parsley likes to dress up a mild soup.
Soup is the best thing to do with leftovers. Rice, beans, chicken, roasted veggies. It's my favorite thing to feed to a crowd. I could eat some sort of soup every day and not grow tired of it. Truly.
This soup was inspired by this recipe. I wanted to use a 15 bean soup mix and make something that didn't involve chunks of ham. I'm not opposed to ham. I just wanted to try something different. You know? The result was delicious. The small beans cook faster, breaking down, and adding thickness to the soup. The tomatoes, lemon, and kale provide a fresh kick that is so appreciated in the last few weeks of winter. I know the calendar says spring, but it still feels like winter out there and we're a long way from fresh vegetables at the farmer's market here in New England.
Tomato + Kale + Bean soup::
1 pound dry 15 bean mix
oil for sauteing (use your favorite kind)
2 large onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (regular paprika is ok, but the smoked is amazing!)
2-3 teaspoons italian herb blend or all purpose herb blend (we like the ones from frontier)
1 can (28 oz.) organic whole tomatoes, roughly chopped (I do this with kitchen scissors)
1 can (28 oz.) pureed tomatoes
more water if needed*
salt & pepper to taste
2-3 TBSP lemon juice
1 large head of kale, tough stems removed, chopped into bite sized pieces
olive oil or shredded parmesan and red pepper flakes to garnish
Soak your beans the night before.
The next day, rinse them well and simmer them in about 12 or so cups of water. You will not be rinsing these after cooking, so start with 12 cups and add more water as needed. You don't want it to be too thick, but you don't want it to be watery either. Think good soup consistency when you add more water. Once the large beans are tnder, set aside until needed. If your bean mix came with ham seasoning packets, toss them out. You didn't think I was going to tell you to eat those, right? Meat flavoring sort of freaks me out a little. Just saying.
Saute onions over medium heat until tender. (use a big soup pot, you'll be adding everything else to this one) Add garlic, italian herbs, and paprika. If it seems too dry, add a splash of water. Cook for just a minute or two to soften the garlic.
Add canned tomatoes, (or frozen equivalent if you have some from last summer. a quart of sauce can replace the pureed tomatoes) Bring to a gentle simmer, add more water if it seems too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I let mine simmer for about 20 minutes to let the flavors all meld together. Add the lemon juice, chopped kale and simmer for about 5 minutes, just until the kale is wilted. (any dark leafy green can be substituted for the kale) Serve with a splash of olive oil & red pepper flakes, or freshly grated cheese & pepper flakes.