After three or four (could it have been even longer? Seems like it…) of cool rainy days here in Minnesota, I thought a simple soup would fit the bill. When I watched a DVR’d episode of Mad Hungry and saw Lucinda’s friend Gloria make her simple, homey version of her Italian Grandmother’s Bean and Escarole soup I just had to try it and adapt it for my own.
I know I’ve mentioned before how enamoured I am with greens and beans. Both are powerhouses of nutrients, and I’m always looking for new ways to use Kale, by far my favorite of the greens: it’s good for you, the flavor is wonderful if not overcooked, it’s cheap and readily available. What more can I say? I’m always looking for ways to get it on to the table, and I never see escarole in my market, so a kale swap out is in order. The trick with Kale is to use it fresh! It should be bright and colorful and crisp - if it’s a dull green, it’s on it’s way out – it reduces quickly in size and the taste becomes bitter.
By the way, in my quest to eat more greens, earlier in the week I decided to try Crispy Kale Chips, a Melissa d’ Arabian recipe - it never occurred to me I wouldn’t like them, but I’m not a fan. If you’re adventurous, try them – on the comments, there was a wide split – people loved them or hated them. I was very impressed by how many commented their kids loved them.
My teenager, yeah the gluttonous (bless his heart) one I mentioned when I ranted on about Chicken Nuggets last week didn’t even try them – and he’ll usually eat almost anything I make. I put a small bowl of them next to him when he was on the computer, thinking he might just mindlessly munch a few, but no luck. Later this week I’m going to try Melissa’s Kale Salad, maybe with apples and dried cranberries.
But back to the soup – I also made a few other adaptations - I almost always have homemade chicken stock on hand (use canned if you’d like – but homemade is so much more inexpensive and tastes so much better. I have some on the stove right now, simmering away, all by itself) and I didn’t use the canned beans – I pulled my portioned bags from the freezer. These are some of my strategies for getting homemade food on the table on a budget price – but even written as it was with canned broth and beans, it’s still a very healthy soup.
Lucinda and Gloria served the soup with savory rosemary biscotti – I’ll just go with a few slices of good bread, like my five minute no knead (but takes a day) “artisanal” Crusty Bread drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in the oven.
White Bean and Kale Soup, serves 6, cost $4.10
- 1 to 2 bunches of kale
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups white or cannelloni beans (or two 15 ounce cans with liquid)
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 4 cups chicken broth (or two 15.5 ounce cans)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Slices of toasted bread for serving.
Fill a large basin with water and add kale; drain basin, refill with water and repeat. Drain and roughly chop.
Bring about three inches of water to boil in a large pot. Add kale, cover, and steam for about 15 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water if you’re not making the soup right away – you don’t want it to sit and keep steaming.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until just golden brown, four to five minutes. (You can remove if you wish, for a milder flavor.)
Add beans. If you use canned beans, add with the liquid – the starch will help add body to your soup. If you’ve just cooked your beans, you can replace about a cup of the broth with the cooking liquid for a little more body. If you are pulling them frozen from the freezer, just puree or mash a few of them and they’ll help thicken the soup slightly.
Add oregano, red pepper flakes, chicken broth and kale. Bring up to a gentle simmer, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Watch the color of your greens – you want them bright and vibrant, and to my mind this is best if the greens are just cooked through.
Place your bread in the bottom of the bowl, ladle the soup over and serve.
I like to serve soups like this with a little vinegar – red, white or balsamic – it just perks up the flavor.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
This soup will freeze beautifully.
- Greens: I sometimes buy whatever’s on sale, but I’m a big fan of both Kale and Turnip Greens. Kale, I think is the better choice here – it’s nice and sturdy, although you can use other greens. Even at regular price, most greens are not expensive. A bunch runs between 89 to 99 cents here in Minnesota – other regions may well have lower prices. (To get an idea of how much kale you want to use, I used two bunches in mine – it was actually a bit much for my son.) Cost: $2.00
- If you fold the greens so the stalk protrudes, you can very easily remove most of it by running your hand down the stalk and pulling. I don’t worry about the thinner bits of stalk higher on the leaf – I like the texture.
- Beans: I find the navy much easier to find, but any white bean, or near white bean will work in this recipe. Dried beans and peas are generally on sale the week or week after any large Holiday when people eat ham – think Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter – and they are often unadvertised. I really like to stock up, because we eat them quite often. (By the way, if you’re concerned about side effects, eat them more! Your body will adjust, all by itself. It doesn’t hurt to give them a good rinse before soaking and before cooking.) A good price is $.80 to $.89 cents a pound. When you are making some for a meal, simmer two or three packages, divide up into 1 1/2 cup bags and freeze. (The equivalent of a can of beans – that’s the standard you’ll find in most recipes.) You should get *almost* three packets out of a pound. Cost 60 cents.
- Olive Oil: See my strategies for buying Olive oil, but basically watch for sales and coupons! My buy price (I pick it up whether I need it or not when it’s at my ‘buy’ price!) is about 8 cents an ounce. In a case like this, I’ll break out the “better” Olive oil – when the olive oil is a main flavoring of the dish it’s no place to skimp. I still try to buy it on sale, and with a coupon, but the cost for a 1/2 cup is about a dollar.
- Chicken Stock: Again, I make my Chicken Stock from bones and scraps that I save. I don’t count it as costing anything, although I do suppose the small flame for simmering (not much higher than a pilot light) costs something…I freeze for use later. Cost: Zero.
- Parmesan Cheese: Here, you really want to use a good parmesan or Romano – which is often a less in price and has a stronger flavor (so you get to use less!) Cost for about 1/4 cup to shaved over the soup, about a 50 cents.
- Garlic: four cloves runs about 10 cents, more or less, depending on when you’re buying. Check out and see if it’s cheaper by the package, the head or the pound.
- Bread: I do really like this with the chewy, Crusty Bread – it costs about a quarter to make. If you use Italian bread, watch for it to go on sale at the store every three to four weeks, in our area for about a dollar. Cost 50 cents.
Nutrition (for soup, not counting bread and cheese which will vary): Calories 406, Cal from fat 183 (remember this is high in fat, but it is olive oil – full of Omega threes – reduce the amount if you’re concerned) tot fat 20g; sat fat 3g; chol 0mg, transfat none; sod 551 (this will be greatly reduced if you make homemade) tot carb 41, fib 11g; sug .55g; prot 15g.
Put Your own Spin on It:
This soup as it stands is a simple country soup – “comfort” food – but you can take this in a lot of different directions:
- You can use escarole like the original recipe stated, or another green of your choice. If you use something less hardy, like spinach, you’ll want to drop it in at the very end and cook for just a moment or two, depending on how sturdy your spinach is.
- You can saute up diced onion, carrots, canned or fresh tomatoes.
- You can flavor this up with Italian spices, basil, rosemary and lots of garlic, maybe some balsamic vinegar.
- If you like a heartier soup, you can saute Italian sausage at the beginning, remove it and continue, then add it back in when it’s time to simmer.
- If you’re a vegetarian, just use vegetable broth.
Recipe made June 2012
- White bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup (theweedpatch.typepad.com)
- March 18th, 2012, Shrimp and Kale with Beans/$4.23 (frugalhausfrau.wordpress.com)