19 April 2009

my basic soup

basic kale and butternut squash soup

Most days I come home from work, tired and hungry, only to find "nothing" to eat. Even though I go shopping probably at least twice or three times as often as most Americans (and probably five times as often as most Americans my age), I always end up with random, mismatched ingredients that struggle to work together. Of course I deal with it: I'll spread a little marmite and tahini on some toasted bread from the freezer, I'll eat an entire bunch of bananas (and call it breakfast...or lunch...or dinner...), or I'll splash some soy sauce onto cold azuki beans and eat them straight from a jar. Oh, the joys of late-night noshing!

But, every once in a while, I get lucky and find that I already have on hand everything I need to make something delicious that feels like a proper meal, or at least a meal that was intentional.

That's what this recipe is--mostly basics that are easy to keep around, and the type of things that are probably already in your kitchen (or, at least they're usually in mine, so I'll make the assumption that you probably have most of them too). For example, olive oil, onions and garlic are kitchen staples, and since butternut squash can be left to sit on the counter forever without going bad, I usually try to have one on hand. And even though I try to soak and cook dried beans (since it's more economical), I usually have a couple cans of garbanzo and black beans in my pantry, just in case.

And that's about all there is to this recipe. Add a bit of saffron and lacinato kale and you've got a simple soup that is totally satisfying. (Lacinato kale is also called dinosaur kale--the name alone makes me want to eat it. I realize most people probably don't have this on hand all the time, but since it's my favorite green, I buy it at least twice a week and I consider it one of my basics. If you don't have lacinato kale, you can use another type of kale or another green such as chard or spinach.) This soup is really flexible, too. You can also a grain or pasta to this dish, or you can follow my example and soak up the broth with the delicious rye bread I happened to have made the day before.

Basic Kale and Butternut Squash Soup:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped
1 pinch saffron threads
1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas
about 7 cups vegetable broth
additional salt to taste (if needed, depending on brand of broth)

In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil and add the onions, cooking and stirring for a minute. Once the onions begin to sweat, add a pinch of salt and the garlic, cooking for a couple more minutes. Add the butternut squash and saute for about 8 minutes. Pour in vegetable broth to come to about half way up the squash and seal the pot with a lid. Cook over medium/low heat for about 25 minutes or until squash is almost tender, checking periodically to make sure there is stilll liquid in the pan. Add the rest of the broth, the chickpeas, and the saffron. Finally, add the kale and cover with a lid, cooking until kale has wilted. Before serving, remove the saffron threads (if you can find them); they can be dried and used a second time in another recipe. Pour into bowls and serve with a grain or a hearty bread like my Orange Walnut Rye Bread.

While the texture of this bread wasn't perfect, the flavor was delicious. I'm going to try to keep the base and experiment with different baking times, temperatures and techniques.

Orange Walnut Rye Bread:

200 grams dark rye flour
80 grams whole wheat flour
3/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon golden syrup (or sub agave)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 teaspoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoons salt

Begin by proofing yeast in 1/4 cup of the water plus the golden syrup. Meanwhile, mix together dry ingredients. Once yeast has foamed and is ready, add with remaining warm water, oil and molasses to the dry mixture. Knead for 8 minutes. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. Punch down dough and fold over itself. Shape dough into a loaf and all to rest for at least 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 F. Bake about 40 minutes, or until bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

happy endings