Cannellini and Kale Soup with Bruschetta
This is a good meal to make if you are dead tired, hungry, and need to feed the small army known as your family.
-about three glasses of wine
-2 cans cannellini beans
-1 bunch kale
-4 cloves garlic
-box of vegetable bouillon cubes (I used Rapunzel brand’s vegan cubes with no salt added, which doesn’t have a bunch of ingredients that end in letters like -ite and -ate and EDTA)
-good quality olive oil
-argan oil (can substitute sesame or flax oil)
-salt and pepper
-grated parmesan or romano cheese
-a loaf of hearty grainy hippie bread
When you get home from the supermarket, banish everyone but your mom from the kitchen. Pour yourself a “glass” (i.e. a small bucketful) of wine and shake your head vigorously when your mom asks if she can help with anything. This is your show, and after a long day on the road — with the day before that spent in a plane — you are going to need to lay dictatorial claim to one room and one meal for one hour to get your sanity back.
Fill a pot with as much water as it might take to make soup for your love army, and put it on to boil. Chop 3 cloves of the garlic finely, and then dice the onion. If you’ve already finished your bucket of wine at this point, pour yourself another. Slice the stalks out of the kale leaves, and chop the leaves to bite-size (apparently you can reserve the stalks for broth, but I didn’t do this). Now sauté the garlic and onion in a large pan at medium heat, with plenty of olive oil, until the onion softens and begins to brown a little. Add the kale and cook it until it’s wilted, then take the pan off the heat and set it aside. The water will probably be boiling at this point, and you are going to be a little annoyed to have to do math after all that wine. Luckily, I have worked out a little formula to help you figure out how many bouillon cubes you need:
(x) hunger + (y) exhaustion / (n) I don’t care = # cubes
So yeah, I used 6 (1 per guest). Once the cubes have dissolved, turn the heat to medium-low and open the cans of beans. Rinse them off and add half of them to the broth. Use a potato ricer to mash them, which will make the broth thicken nicely. Now taste it to figure out how much salt you need — no equation necessary (don’t you love how salting is a subjective art?), but don’t add too much, as the cheese will add its own saltiness to the soup later on.
Pour yourself that third though by no means final glass of wine, because now comes the fun part: add the garlic, onion, and kale mixture to the soup, along with the rest of the beans and a spoonful of argan oil if you have it. If not, you can substitute sesame or flax oil, which have a similarly smoky/nutty/bitter flavor. A teaspoon should do it, but if your love army involves 8 or more people you might want to use a tablespoon. Now put a lid on the pot, take a sip of wine, and pat yourself on the back. The hard work is done. The soup only needs to simmer for about half an hour or 40 minutes, until the kale is soft.
Prepare to turn your attention to the bread issue. Preheat the oven to 375, break out a cookie sheet, peel that last clove of garlic, and make sure the olive oil is within reach. I like to do relatively thin slices of bread, but this is your show so you should do whatever you want. Remember, you are the Supreme Kitchen Dictator tonight and you call the shots. Mom is there to help with cleanup and supply conversational entertainment, but she knows that when you get that look in your eye you just need to slice the bread yourself. When the oven is hot, toast the slices on a baking sheet for a few minutes until the surfaces have dried a little. Crush a clove of garlic and rub one side of each slice with the garlic, followed by a healthy brushing/drizzling of olive oil. The bread only needs to be in the oven for about 10 minutes, so if the soup has been simmering for about 20 or 30 minutes already you’re all set. I know that, traditionally, the toasting happens before the garlic and oil are added, but doing the toasting afterward makes the bread more crouton-like (see photo, above).
Before serving the soup, stir a few pinches of cheese into it. Officers in the love army should be encouraged to add more cheese to their bowls once everything’s served. Because this is the last step, the final adios to exhaustion and hunger and stress — when I say that “cheese fixes everything,” I don’t just mean that it fixes food. Combined with warm, hearty soup, the best company in the world, and pleasant tipsiness, cheese really fixes everything.