This past Saturday was a fun filled one. I volunteered at a local center in the morning. I am happy to say it was my kind of volunteering; it was a cooking class for patients, recovering patients and/or families of patients that want to learn new recipes and ideas to healthful cooking and eating. I volunteered to help the chef/teacher prepare, cook and serve the food. While I got started, the teacher talked about the benefits of each fruit, vegetable, herb and spice we were using. Words can’t describe how much fun I had.
She had planned to make lots of things. Given that we had 2 hours for the class we narrowed it down to about 6 dishes. They were:
Green salad with Peanut dressing
Another salad with kale pesto dressing
Red Bean Vegetarian Chili with Hominy
Leek, Apple and Walnut sauté
Squash and Kale with northern bean soup
I dived right into making the peanut dressing as she started her talk, then made the chili and curried cauliflower. I had excellent students sitting across from the stove that were interested in the spices for chili and cauliflower than a lesson on good eating habits. I loved talking to them and answering their questions. I heart cooking.
All in all, it was a good day, volunteering.
We usually have lots of vegetables and fruits left over from cooking class, and instead of wasting, I brought home 2 lbs of kale and Swiss chard.
My thought process: “It’s perfect weather for soup, kale is in season, and I’ve got a bunch that needs to be used, why not try it?” I saw some recipes for white bean and potato soup, one with arugula that I used as a guide.
That evening I made a Kale, Northern Bean and Potato soup.
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed with the pan of a knife
1 cup dried northern beans, any white beans will do*
2 medium Idaho potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and roughly chopped**
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/8 teaspoon of jalapeño chili pepper, optional (I like it for a slight kick)
1lb Kale, washed, drained and chopped
3 cups vegetable stock, low or no sodium
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Shaved Parmesan cheese
*Note: I prefer to use dried beans (this includes cannelini, kidney, garbanzo, black eyed peas- not really beans but you get the point) because dried beans retain their flavor and, in my opinion, are much fresher than canned. If you prefer using canned, use those. (side note: The husband and family think I only enjoy food that’s labor intensive. Not true but I’ll let them have it.)
If using dried beans, soak beans in water for couple hours, overnight is preferable.
Pressure cooking beans and long cooking starches such as potatoes and root vegetables speeds up their cooking process. If you don't have a pressure cooker, follow the recipe starting with olive oil in a sauce pan.
**Note: Scrub, half and cook potatoes with beans in a pressure cooker.
If using pressure cooker: rinse soaked beans with water, add to the pressure cooker with halved potatoes and salt. Add enough water to cover both beans and potatoes. Follow the instructions to your pressure cooker for heat and cooking times. After 5-6 whistles, turn off heat and cool before opening. (Opening a hot pressure cooker immediately after turning off heat can mean disaster so allow it to cool, until the steam escapes from the cooker.)
If not using the pressure cooker, in a tall pot, bring the dried beans, salt and water to boil. Turn heat to medium and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally so the beans do not stick to the pot.
Tip for dried beans, they are done when they smash smoothly between thumb and index finger.
If using canned beans, skip the above steps. Scrub, peel and roughly chop potatoes, onions, garlic, green chili pepper, if using (for jalapeño (or any hot) pepper, use gloves or wash hands immediately).
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium flame. Add onions and garlic; there should be a sizzle when adding these, if not then the pan isn’t hot enough. When onions are translucent, add pressure cooked potatoes, beans, ground pepper, rosemary, thyme, jalapeño pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add roughly chopped kale, enough stock to cover, milk, salt and black pepper. Stir and cook until kale wilts. Using a stick blender, blend the ingredient in the pan or transfer to manual blender and blend the soup into preferred consistency. The husband likes a pureed soup and I like it with pieces of potatoes and kale so I blend until it is 75% pureed.
If using canned beans and raw potatoes.
Add raw cubed potatoes and salt to translucent onions and cook for 10 minutes covered. When potatoes are almost done, add simmered or canned beans, ground pepper, rosemary, thyme, jalapeño pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes. Follow the steps for kale and rest of the ingredients.
Add shaved parmesan cheese to the soup and serve hot on winter nights.
Damn that was a long post.... And you read all of it? Thank you, you should be awarded. If you try this recipe, leave me comments, and suggestions.
Picture to come…