Soul-Warming Leek and White Bean Soup with Cardamom

On a damp, foggy late fall day there are few things more soul-warming than nestling up to a steaming bowl of homemade soup. The ritual of chopping, sautéing, stirring, and ladling engages your hands and mind. The comforting goodness that results lifts your spirits as you revel in the small accomplishment of feeding yourself and your loved ones from a communal pot. Out of nowhere, you realize the birds outside your window are singing despite the darkness and drear.

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Unfortunate events in our lives can manifest themselves as emotional fog, casting gloom over what might have otherwise been a day of gracious, open-eyed life-living. When something happens to us, when another person wrongs us or hurts us or lets us down, the negative energy can permeate our very fibers. It takes courage and will to rise above the fog, to let the sun burn the clouds away and see the world as it really is: miraculous. And we can’t always do that on our own.

I am one of many students at my university that has recently been wronged: we’ve had money and personal belongings stolen from us, unexpectedly and in the midst of impending exams and holidays – a time when we could all use a big hug rather than a metaphorical punch in the gut. These acts hurt and enrage us and make us feel helpless. This experience made me less apt to trust others and weakened my faith in the unspoken bonds I share with all the hard-working, diverse women that surround me in our beautiful little school.

But then there are the people that burn away the fog, that fortify our belief in humanity, that help shift our outlook back to optimism and love.  Thank you to you. You are my sun today. I am writing this because you changed my thought patterns, something I could not have done alone. This soup is for you, too.

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Soul-Warming Leek and White Bean Soup with Cardamom

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 very large or 2-3 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

¼ tsp cardamom

4 medium carrots, sliced into ¼” thick coins

1 large potato, any variety, diced into ½” chunks

6 cups stock of choice (or as I did, 4 cups vegetable stock + 2 cups water)

1 29-oz can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

~6 leaves dinosaur kale, coarsely torn

freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste

olive oil for serving

Method:

1. In a 4-quart or larger pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add leeks and sauté until just softened, but not brown.  Add garlic and cardamom and sauté a minute more.

2. To the pot o’ alliums (leeks and garlic), add carrot coins and potato chunks.  Pour in your stock and turn heat to medium-high, bringing liquid to a boil then reducing to a simmer.  Add white beans, rosemary sprig and Parmesan rind, if using.

3.  Continue simmering soup until carrots and potatoes tender, adding more liquid as needed for desired consistency.

4.  Turn heat to low.  Stir torn kale leaves into soup and cover, cooking just until kale is bright green, about 3 minutes.

5.  Remove soup from heat; allow it to cool slightly.  Puree soup with standard or immersion blender until your preferred texture is reached.  I liked it mostly smooth, allowing just a few hearty chunks of potato and flecks of kale to prevail.

6.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil plus salt and pepper to the soup-eater’s liking.

7. Let the steam from your bowl rise up and give you a mini-facial; listen for birds.

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Here We Go and Carrot Soup

Hi there.

Starting is the hardest part.  True of most worthwhile tasks, creating this place to impart upon the the world wide web parts of my life, fairly intimate parts like what I eat and how I make it and how it makes me feel, has been no exception.  For well over a year “start a food blog” has been oscillating between my long and short term to-do lists.  Well here we are, and here we go.

I wanted to start with something bright, a vibrant dish that would make a statement about my cooking style and food values.  From humble beginnings.  Yes, and so it is soup.  Healthy, colorful, funkily-combined-ingredients-that-happen-to-be-around soup that we shall commence with herein henceforth.

Start with carrots.  Fresh as possible to lay down the base for full-flavor potential since these will be the stars of your soupy show.  Winter time here in Wisconsin turns out some pretty sweet (tasting) carrots thanks to the cold temperatures that cause these guys to store sugar instead of starch in their root parts.  Although it is now technically spring, and how early and abundantly it has come to us, the carrots at the grocery store are of course still hauling ass from Cali-forn-i-a, but sniffing around a late winter farmer’s markets might just turn up some orange gems for this recipe.  Alternatively, if you want to wait until next year to make this soup you could grow your own. 

Kale, cashews, and ginger are the back up singers in this show.  Ginger sings loudest of the three, but only if you use fresh chopped.  Cashews lend a slight meaty chew and creamy consistency so we can keep things light by skipping the animal products.  Kale adds color contrast and a dose of vits to boot, plus it smells like fresh cut grass when you shred it for the soup.  Ahh…

The soup is light, not especially hearty – it will shine forth from your bowl singing a little hallelujah of orange and green.  Upon first bite, the ginger leaves itself lingering after the other flavors slide away.  And soon the bowl is empty and your stomach feels like sunshine.  It’s a good soup for the afternoon time, before a hike or a trip to the grocery store.   Serve it with bread or a dollop of yogurt and some triscuit crackers.  Now get cooking friends!

Ingredients:

1 medium sized shallot, diced

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced

2 inch chunk fresh ginger, minced

Spices: curry powder, nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon

1/3 cup raw cashews coarsely chopped

6 medium-large carrots scrubbed and chopped into ½ inch thick coins

4 cups stock of vegetable or chicken – homemade or store bought

Salt to taste

1 bunch (8-10 leaves) dinosaur kale, coarsely shredded into strips

Juice of half a lemon

This is how we do it:

Sauté shallot in 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil for 2 min in dutch oven or stockpot

Add garlic and ginger and let cook for 1 more minute

Add spices – 2 teaspoons curry powder, a few grinds of fresh nutmeg if you’ve got it, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, a sprinkle of cinnamon if you’re feeling crazy- along with 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cashews, toast spices and nuts for an addition minute or two, deglaze pan with splash of stock or water if ingredients become dry or start to burn.

Toss in chopped carrots and 3.5 cups cooking liquid of choice – I used store bought low-sodium chicken stock.  Bring to gentle boil for a minutes, then reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender upon testing by tasting one, after of course blowing on it until cool enough to pop in your mouth. The carrots should give easily when chewed, but not be falling apart in the pot.

While allowing carrot mixture to cool slightly, heat a frying pan with some olive oil and sauté coarsely chopped kale, in 2 batches if necessary, until wilted and maybe even slightly crisp.

Leave kale alone for a while (most varieties don’t suffer from separation anxiety) and ladle some of the carrots and broth into a blender, getting a good 50/50 ratio of carrots to broth.  Fill only a little above halfway, then cover top of the blender with a clean towel or oven mitt and puree until smooth, but not so much that you lose sight of all the pale flecks of ginger, garlic and cashew.

It will take a few runs of the blender to get all the soup blended up, and you will probably need a separate pot to put the finished stuff in.  I hope your significant other likes to do dishes as much as mine does, and if your significant other’s name is Whirlpool or Maytag, I applaud you.

Once all soup is pureed and back in a pot, turn the heat back on medium low and begin stirring in the kale.  Give it about 5 minutes for the carrots and kale to get acquainted then add salt to taste and squeeze in half a lemon’s juice to finish. Well now – you’ve got yourself a pot of carrot ginger kale soup.  Well done.

Stir in a splash or two of half and half right before serving if you’d like a silkier texture.