Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sausage, Leek and Kale Soup

1 pkg. Italian sausage, any variety(I used chicken, but pork also works well) 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced 1 onion, chopped small 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped 1-2 bunches of kale(red, green or black dino) ribs removed and leaves cut into small pieces` 4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 qrts chicken stock/broth 2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained 2 cans white kidney beans(also called cannellini or great white norther beans), drained and rinsed fresh or dried thyme, oregano or rosemary salt and pepper cayenne pepper Heat a little olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and saute until cooked through, chopping the sausage into smallish bits. Remove the sausage to a bowl, reserving any oil left in the pan(if using pork sausage, drain some of the fat). Reduce the heat to medium and saute the leeks and onion together and cook until soft and a little caramelized(don't stir too often). Toss in the carrots and cook another five minutes. Add the kale and toss until the kale begins wilting. Add any herbs you're using(one or all three is fine). Add the garlic and toss everything together for roughly 30 seconds, then immediately add 1 qrt of the stock. This will deglaze the pan, so be sure to scrape up all the lovely browned bits at the bottom and watch your stock turn a rich golden color. Add both cans of tomatoes with juice and the other qrt of stock. Add cayenne to taste(this soup is delicious with lots of heat). Return the sausage to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer(don't boil) at least 15 minutes. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread and plenty of grated parmesan. Notes: I normally prefer the fattier version of things, but I actually like chicken sausage better in this soup; it makes it very light so you really taste all the vegetables, and you can eat a lot of it without feeling weighed down. Also, there's as much fat in a single link of pork sausage as there is in 5 links of chicken sausage. I've made this soup using all three herbs; fresh oregano is my favorite, but I've also used dried oregano, fresh or dried thyme, or a small sprig of fresh rosemary. The soup is delicious with one or all, and I'm guessing fresh or dried basil would also be interesting. If you're using fresh thyme, there's no need to remove all the little leaves; just toss in a couple of sprigs after the leeks an onions caramelize. The same goes for fresh rosemary, just be careful to only use a small amount; fresh rosemary is potent. Regular red kidney beans would also be fine, but I find I prefer the lighter flavor of the cannellini beans. Whatever you use, always wash your beans; the packing fluid can be very salty and make your broth taste too bean-y. A great way to get lovely parmesan flavor is to toss in the rind from a spent wedge. Whenever you use up a wedge of parmesan, put the rind in a zip-lock bag and keep it in the freezer. When making soup, toss it in at the beginning of the simmering stage. Of course, you could also cut the rind off of a wedge you have on hand. Lots of recipes call for cooking onions and garlic together; I never, ever do this. Onions need a long cooking time to develop their sugars and caramelize, while garlic burns very quickly. Nothing ruins a dish faster than burnt garlic. I always add the garlic at the last possible moment, just a quick saute before adding the liquid. This goes for making red sauces too, but is especially important with soup. This particular recipe results in a lot of browned vegetable matter at the bottom of the pan, especially if you're using stainless steel. This is fine as long as all you're cooking is vegetables, which can become quite dark without developing an off-flavors. If your garlic were to get as dark as the bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, it would be game over. This is one of the best soups in the world for a cold, especially with lots of cayenne.

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