It’s the time of year for soup. Not just because it’s chilly and because soup feels cozy and warm, but also because it’s easy to make, nourishing to eat, and, best of all, simple to share. Make a pot on a weekend afternoon and have enough to eat throughout the week or jar up and share with friends in need of a hot meal. With a jar or two on standby in the freezer, you’ve got extra time for other kinds of holiday cheer, or an easy meal for last-minute guests.
One of my favorite soups to make in December—and throughout the winter—is so simple, it feels like cheating: white beans melted into a base of tomato and parmesan and brightened up with kale and lemon. I’ve never shared the recipe, mostly because I never use one, but I do make a variation of this soup nearly weekly and so I thought I’d provide the inspiration, at the very least, if not a bonafide recipe, exactly.
For my part, I like to keep the ingredients list aggressively simple. You could add carrots and celery. There are similar soup recipes that include potatoes and squash, sometimes even noodles, but for me the beauty is found in just a handful of basic ingredients.
White Bean Soup with Tomatoes and Kale
What you need:
~ 1 onion (plus another if you’re making the beans from scratch)
~ 3-4 cloves of garlic (plus a few for the beans)
~ 2 cups cooked white beans
~ 1 bunch of lacinato kale
~ 1 28-ounce can of stewed tomatoes
What I do (a rough guide):
+ White beans get soaked overnight if I have the forethought, or simmered away on the stove with a bay leaf, half an onion, and garlic cloves for an extra hour or two on Sunday morning. (Canned beans won’t be as delicious but they’ll make the whole process practically immediate.)
+ Onion and garlic get diced, added to a pot with a healthy glug of olive oil, and sizzled until golden.
+ A large can of stewed tomatoes plus water (I use the empty tomato can as my measure) makes for a rich broth, especially when simmered with the rind off a hunk of parmesan and healthy pinch or three of salt.
+ Cooked beans go back in and burbled away until they’ve started to melt into the pot and turned the broth creamy.
+Then, the stove goes off and ribbons of fresh lacinato kale get stirred in and wilted. Lemon juice goes in for brightening. Parmesan gets grated on top and the whole thing gets served with warm, crusty bread. The end result is Christmas season in a pot, by accident of bright colors (and good cheer).
PS. I finally caved and scrubbed my old enameled cast iron for the very last time and traded ‘er in for one of these enameled black pots, which has the very important feature of not showing every last drip or drop burned on in cooking and sitting awfully pretty “in storage” on top of the fridge.