Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bacon and Bean Soup with Kale

Two bowls of bacon and bean soup with kale
Last Two Serving of Soup

Recipe by Robin

Kale is just not something that my husband favors. In recent weeks of giant kale bunches we’ve explored Garlic Ginger Kale, Green Garlic Kale with Leeks, and our classic Hot Kale Salad with Balsamic & Hot Chili Oil. He’s tired of all of them, and tired of any side dish that is essentially just plain kale with seasonings. We had the same issue last year with large amounts of hefty escarole. Finally I drowned the escarole in a soup with beans and bacon, two well-known man-pleasers. This takeoff on Escarole, White Bean, and Bacon Soup suits this window of time while we still waiting on tomato harvests, but have plenty of mild and spicy peppers. Quite a bit of kale can be submerged in this recipe, and its hearty flavor compliments the bacon, peppers, and beans.

Soup Pot after adding beans and Bacon
Crowd Pleasing Ingredient: Bacon
Like the escarole and bean soup, the idea is to make a flavorful but subtle broth in which no particular herb or vegetable stands out. For this reason, all veggies are chopped finely, and garlic is pressed. Herbs are added with a light hand. For richer flavor, use more than one kind of pepper. I used Hungarian wax and poblano, which gave the broth a slightly smoky and picante flavor.

Do use nitrite-free bacon. Sodium nitrite, a bacon preservative, can react with protein when heated to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. The USDA says that nitrites in bacon safe because the benefit (preventing botulism) outweighs the cost.  I respectfully disagree. Since bacon-related botulism is not a problem these days with adequate refrigeration, I’m sticking with the nitrite-free. It’s readily available at most stores.

My husband heartily approved this soup, kale notwithstanding, and brought it to work for lunch several days in a row. As you ladies and gents who cook for a family know, this is the ultimate compliment to the cook—and recommendation for the recipe.

Bowl of Soup garnished with Parsley
First Serving of Soup
Kale Bacon Bean Soup
serves about 12

1 lb. dry white beans
¾ lb. bacon
1¼ cup thinly sliced onions
¾ cup finely chopped mixed peppers
1½ cup finely chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, pressed
~11 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 large sprigs fresh oregano
2 large sprigs fresh marjoram
Large bunch of kale ~1 lb.
Instant (organic) chicken bouillon
Grated Parmesan cheese (if desired)

Soak beans overnight or up to 20 hours, or use a speed soaking method, which takes a little over an hour. Drain beans. You will have about 6 cups.

Cook bacon in the bottom of a heavy soup pot. Place bacon strips in cold pot and heat over medium or medium low heat. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Turn bacon when it releases from the pot. Fry till it looks cooked, but is still soft, turning as needed.

Remove bacon from pan and drain or blot on paper towel. Fry up second batch if necessary. When cool, cut or tear into 1-inch pieces.

You will need about 2 tbsp. bacon fat. Remove some if you have much more.

Sauté onions in the bacon fat over medium-high heat until limp, about 2 minutes.

Add the finely chopped peppers and carrots, toss to coat with oil. Sauté, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, another 3-4 minutes. Stir in pressed garlic, and cook until fragrant, another minute or so.

Add the bacon, beans, broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and marjoram. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.

While soup is cooking, strip kale leaves from stems and discard stems. Tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Add kale to hot soup. Simmer on low heat until escarole is cooked, about 10 - 12 minutes.

Adjust seasoning of broth. If it tastes flat, add some instant (organic) chicken bouillon, a teaspoon at a time, stirring and tasting after each addition.

We serve this soup au naturel, without garnish. If you prefer, you can top each serving with a little grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Soup Ingredients before Cooking with Huge Pile of Kale
Thatsa Lotta Kale!

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