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Italian Sausage, White Bean and Winter Kale Soup
Serves 6

Winter Kale

Inspiration
Winter kale is one of the heartiest vegetables I know of. As the temperature cools, kale leaves get darker and its flavor gets more intense. Seeing almost black green bunches at a winter farmers market or in the produce section of a good grocery inspires me to cook one of our favorite one dish pasta dinners: penne with garlic, winter kale and grated Parmegiano Reggiano.

Hints

  1. The fat in chilled hard cheeses like Parmegiano Reggiano are difficult to grate or shave. Put them in the microwave, unwrapped for a few seconds and they will grate easily.
  2. Canned beans are convenient but often overcooked and mushy…perfect for pureeing for soups. If you love beans and are eating them whole, alone or in soups, learn to plan ahead for their 45 minute cooking time. I cook lots at a time and freeze the ones I don’t use for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3-4 stems winter kale
1 cup cooked cannellini beans (leftover)
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (see Hint #2)
2 qts. Homemade chicken stock
1/8 tsp. dried red chili pepper
3 grilled Italian sausages* (leftover), sliced into ½” thick discs
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 oz. Parmegiano Reggiano, shaved

Procedure

  1. In a soup pot, soften garlic in olive oil over medium low heat. Remove garlic from oil and set aside.
  2. Tear kale leaves from stems. Cut into bite size pieces and put in a microwave proof container with 1 cup of stock. Cover and cook on high power for 3 minutes. Remove cooked kale from stock with a slotted spoon and transfer to the soup pot. Turn heat to medium and sauté kale in oil for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add all stock, garlic and pepper flakes to kale.
  4. Puree half of the beans in a food processor adding some stock if necessary. Add to the soup with remaining beans and sliced sausages. Cook, uncovered over low heat for 2 -3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. To Serve: Ladle soup into warmed bowls and divide the shaved cheese among the bowls. Serve immediately with crusty Italian artisan bread.

*I really love fresh sausage, particularly Italian style, and I have tasted it nearly everywhere I could find it. Other than some I ate on a tiny farm outside of Terni, Italy, Seattle’s Isernio’s Italian Sausage is my all time favorite. It is distributed throughout grocery stores in the northwest.

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