In the late afternoon, before the ever-earlier evenings steal the last bits of our luminous, Northern, blue light, I’ve been in the habit of taking the pup to the off-leash dog park near our house.
Yesterday, the Honey was home a bit early from work and we bundled up to go; me in thermal tights, a long sweater, down jacket, thick cashmere/wool socks, fleece boots, and double-wrapped scarf, him in jeans and a t-shirt. Only slight hyperbole.
We walked the perimeter of the park – a mile or so through tall grass, past fading, wild, blackberry bushes and overhanging lichen-flecked pines. The pup ran spastic, looping circles ahead of us, stopping every few yards to look back and make sure we were following. We’d hit the park a little later than usual, and with the sun quickly setting, had it mostly to ourselves. The air was still and chilly. Peaceful. The scent of pine linger-
“Noooooooo… not in the – ughhhhh.” The Honey sighed, defeatedly.
The pup had stopped. The mud puddle his paws stood planted in extended across both edges of the path, and looked at least a few inches deep. As if to signal with full certainty that this was not in fact an accident, he plopped down into it, legs outstretched, and happily wiggled, properly covering his entire belly in the dark, murky goo. He wallowed there, looking particularly pleased with himself, until we caught up to him, and ruined all of the glorious fun.
As we made our way back to the parking lot, the pup dripping with sludge water, and planned our tag-team, backyard, freezing water hose-off, I took some consolation in the fact that we had several clean dog towels, and, more importantly, dinner was already cooked and waiting for us – and it was this flavorful, nourishing, kale and white bean soup.
The base of this white bean soup starts with quick caramelized onions, which are layered upon with garlic, lemon and dried herbs – rosemary, thyme and Greek oregano – before simmering away in a rich chicken stock. You’ll want to use the most flavorful stock you can find – or better yet make your own – as it forms a bulk of the soup’s flavor.
For time and convenience’s sake, I used canned (precooked) beans, but you could certainly substitute dried beans (simply increase the volume of stock and cooking time). I generally prefer Lacinato kale – the more delicate, darker-hued, flatter-leafed, Italian variety – also sometimes called Tuscan kale or Tuscan cabbage. It can also be referred to as dinosaur kale, due to the bumpy, reptilian quality of the leaves, which, is probably my favorite moniker.
If kale isn’t your thing (it took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon), try using subtler greens. Spinach and Swiss Chard come to mind, but really any dark leafy green will be well suited to this lemony, garlicky soup.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow or sweet onion, minced
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/8 tsp dried oregano
- 1 small lemon, juiced
- 4 cups (32 oz) rich chicken or vegetable stock
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 (15 oz) cans cooked cannelini beans, drained (not rinsed)
- 1-1/2 cups (loosely-packed) kale (or sub. spinach or Swiss chard), removed from rough stems and torn into small pieces
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the butter, and as it melts, stir in the herbs. Let cook for another minute or two until the onions are lightly golden.
- Add the lemon juice followed by the stock and stir to combine. Cover, and bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, and let simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add the white beans and torn kale leaves, and continue to simmer until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. If using a more delicate green, such as spinach, add right before serving. Serve warm with crusty bread.