Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kale, Bean, and Noodle Soup

How interesting it is to read over a blog you started over four years ago. How embarrassing to note that your last post was a long, drawn-out announcement that you had returned to the blog, right before it was abandoned nearly three years ago. More shameful still is it to go searching on your computer for the post you wrote when you thought you might take this blogging thing back up, to ask your husband what became of it, and to receive the response, "I think I deleted it...that was more than a year ago!" This does not sound very promising at all, does it? Why am I even sitting here writing this at all, and why are you reading it? I won't make any conjectures, just like I won't make any more promises, I'll just get on with it and tell you about the one thing I would like to make again: Kale, Bean, and Noodle Soup. It's what we ate for dinner last night. It was easy, healthy, and tasty. I consider it a success if a meal falls into at least one of those categories, and that's three. That's pretty good. Oh, it was colorful too; that's a bonus. It's food like this that I can't keep to myself, and that, I suppose, I why I'm here.

But I'm getting into a realm I already covered in the "Welcome Back to the New and Improved Blog!" post I wrote about a year ago and never posted (we did find it after all, languishing away in an old folder in the Dropbox), in which I tell you all about what I envision for this little corner of the internet, and re-introduce myself, and announce the pending arrival of our (now-five-month-old!) baby boy, Titus, among other things. I reluctantly put that post up now, because it seems a pity to waste it, I guess. I've already made so many empty promises and set up plenty of sure-to-be-failed expectations, so what's a few more, right? Go read it for a proper introduction, if you want, but for now, on to the soup!

It’s only fitting that I should again start blogging, something I intended to do ages ago, with a recipe I bookmarked in a magazine ages ago. This recipe is from Fine Cooking, circa December 2009. The particular section of the magazine where I found it says, “Make It Tonight: Just 30 minutes to dinner, start to finish.” I don’t know exactly how long this took me, start to finish. I started around 2pm, and we ate at 5:30 or 6pm. But it should be said that in between that time I also fed a baby; put him down for a nap; prepped the kale, carrots, onions and broke the pasta with a toddler (and had I read the recipe more thoroughly, would have mixed up my Better Than Bouillon chicken broth and rinsed and drained my beans in advance too); changed a couple diapers; fed the baby some more; bundled up the baby, toddler, and myself into coats, mittens, and hats; drove to the grocery store and bought next week’s groceries (in record time); came home and unbundled; did another round of diapers; delegated the carrying in and putting away of the groceries, starting of the soup, and entertaining of the toddler to my amazing husband while I once again fed the baby and put him down for a nap; finished the soup; and cleaned up the cooking mess and set the table while it finished simmering. It seemed like such an achievement to sit down to this wonderful soup after all of that—though most days, I have to be honest, do not go as smoothly as today did, let me assure you. And I know that most of you reading this can actually accomplish much more than I did in four hours’ time. I have never been much good at time management. I would love any tips or recipes you have to share that could help me with that. (That’s an ulterior motive of mine in returning to blogging: to get advice from my more seasoned readers!)

But even if you’re an old pro at accomplishing more than one significant thing during the day and also getting dinner on the table, I hope you try out this recipe. It’s a bit different than anything I’ve tried before, but it’s not as unusual as one would expect with the combination of unordinary ingredients. Kale is a newfound love of ours; if you have not tried it, you should! It looks as if it would have a strong flavor, but it’s not overpowering. It adds a nice hearty substance to this soup, along with the beans, which are a fine source of protein. I think the brand of beans we bought was Mrs. Grimes, which I recommend. They were saltier and had a firmer texture than others I’ve tried in the past, and that equals good, in my opinion at least. They were labeled as “white kidney beans,” which are the same thing as cannellini beans, but that’s not as fun to say. Neither is “angel hair pasta,” but I looked it up, and I’m pretty sure that is the same thing as capellini pasta. The original recipe says you can also try fideo noodles in place of the capellini, but as far as I can tell, that’s just the Spanish word for the same thing. We used whole wheat pasta, which just amplifies the warm, nutty flavor you get from toasting the noodles. The lime juice sounded a bit strange to me, but don’t skip it. It doesn’t stand out at all, and gives the broth just the right amount of brightness to complement the savory broth. And the original recipe called for ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro added at the end, but I have a big bag of whole coriander seeds I bought at Penzey’s Spices, so I crushed those up instead and added them earlier on, letting them simmer and infuse the soup with their delicious flavor. Coriander seed, if you didn’t know, grows into cilantro, and the flavor is similar, but more subtle. Feel free to use more if you like, or stick with the cilantro. The only other change I made was to use a regular white onion where the original recipe called for a red onion. I assume the red onion is mostly for appearance, but this is one soup that doesn’t need help in the looks department. I didn't get the greatest picture, but in person, this soup is beautiful. Easy, healthy, tasty, and colorful—this soup has a lot going for it!

Kale, Bean, and Noodle Soup

Adapted from Liz Pearson, Fine Cooking, December 2009/January 2010

Serves 6-8

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup broken (2- to 3-inch pieces) dried capellini pasta (I used whole wheat angel hair. I took about half a one-pound package, broke small bundles at a time into quarters, and found that to be just about right.)
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves roughly torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs fresh lime juice (from 1-2 limes); more to taste (they will be easier to juice at room temperature)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • About 1 tsp. whole coriander seed, crushed with a mortar and pestle

  1. Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just golden brown, about 10 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a medium bowl (I used the same one I used to hold them as I chopped and prepped—actually, I used a dinner plate, which takes up less room in my dishwasher) and set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until dark golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the broth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any stuck-on pasta. Add the carrots and onions, kale, beans, lime juice, ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and ground coriander and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the kale, carrots, and pasta are tender, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper. (Here is where you would add the chopped cilantro if you were using it.) Serve immediately.

Welcome Back to the New and Improved Blog! (Ha.)

Welcome to the third attempt of this fickle girl to become a regular blogger. I won’t offer a big apology for my long absence, or a promise to do better that is sure to be broken. You can read that post here, written way back on October 3, 2008. It’s embarrassing, really, a post about all the things we meant to write about and then naught but a lone picture of us looking dorky in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. But I decided to keep that along with all the old posts on here, even though I’d like to think of this as a new blog. I read a handful of blogs myself, and I know it’s hard to get excited about one without a good chunk of content to pull you in. Not that the content you’ll find here is very promising on that account, but I still thought only one post would be really boring and even more embarrassing than a bunch of old ramblings, so that is what you’ll find if you go poking around in the archives. That and a few new ramblings, equally frivolous, which I wrote just to see if I could keep at this for the long haul, and not just on a quiet Sunday night after a bowl of inspiringly tasty granola. Yes, granola. That is what this blog has been reduced to, a showcase for various recipes like Chocolate Chip Granola. After all, the header at the top of the blog says “of music, photography, travel, food, and life,” but until now it has been a little heavy on the photography and travel, so I figure it’s time to add to the content involving food, maybe a little music, and of course, life. Who knows what kind of interesting subject matter that will throw our way? But don’t be disappointed if it mostly consists of granola. And roasted chicken. And things like that. Because that is the kind of thing we do now; we cook and/or eat, and it’s not exactly the fine dining of some luxurious restaurant in Europe. It’s recipes that try to strike a balance between tasty, easy, and healthy, and all on a student’s budget. Because you see, a lot has changed since this blog was abandoned. We’re no longer living in Germany, we’re back in our home state of Iowa now. Sam is going to college, and I stay home and take care of our son, William. Come August, our family of three will become a family of four. Yes, we’re expecting! So that is another thing that you might look forward to seeing here in the future: if not a bit of commentary on the new little one, then at least a few pictures here and there, I hope. It’s my desire that at some point we will have a variety of things to write about, each on a particular day of the week perhaps, but that is getting too far into the realm of promises made to be broken, which as I said was covered on October 3, 2008, and anyway, if you’re reading this now, you’re probably my mom and you’ll read anything I write with undue adoration no matter what day of the week it is.

You really should go back and read that post from October 3, 2008. I know I said it was embarrassing, and it is, but there are three links to be found within, and I urge you to skim over my drivel to find, follow, and read them. Because there is one thing that has not changed in the two plus years since that post was written. We’re still learning to be content, to live with joy, which is in some ways harder and in some ways easier than it was then. We’re learning what Paul meant when he said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” (Philippians 4:12). He also said, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phillippians 4:4 and 8). We hope that this will be a blog filled with such things, and that you’ll find it minutely worthwhile to read our ramblings about them. That is, if we don’t forget to write for years at a time.