Saturday, January 17, 2015

Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup

I love kale. 

We had half our garden plot planted with it last year, and for a while we ate kale three or four times a week. But it takes a lot of time to trim and shred fresh kale. And it cooks down: four to five cups of shredded kale will reduce to two modest servings after it is skillet-grilled with bacon and diced sweet squash.

I was thrilled, therefore, to find in the Safeway prepared salad section a hefty portion of chopped kale in a "salad kit" from Taylor Farms, with brussels sprouts and arugula among other greens. I immediately bought two bags. With low-sodium beef broth, dried peas and lentils, some pinto beans and a minimum of prep work, we scored this beautiful beef, bean, pulse and kale soup. Cooked overnight in the slow cooker and served with a wedge of jalapeño cheese bread, it was an rousing success.

Prepared salads get a lot of negative reviews from foodies, mostly because they are "highly processed". My feeling is, if it gets more veggies into my diet, it's a great thing! (Also, we do not use the salad dressing or other toppings from the kit in this recipe, and that's where a lot of salt and other processing comes into the kit.)

Prep time using the salad kit is only 30 minutes, and much of that is waiting for the beans to precook. The rest is all slow-cooker: Set it up in the evening, and you'll have an outstanding lunch ready to serve the next day. Do your prep in the morning, and by evening you have a perfect cold-weather supper.

The recipe below makes a LOT of soup, sufficient for a couple for three or four meals, or for a family to have seconds as desired. 

Beefy Kale and Bean Soup


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 1 pound coarse-grind hamburger
  • 1 - 1.5 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 Taylor Farms or other Chopped Kale Salad Kit (or you can shred 2 cups volume kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage, mostly kale)
  • 2 14-ounce cartons low-sodium beef broth (I use Swanson's)
  • 2/3 cup dried green peas
  • 2/3 cup dried lentils
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp seasoning "salt" (this is why you want the low sodium broth; you can also substitute a pinch of paprika, a dash of ground or whole celery seed, and a pinch of turmeric for the seasoned salt)
  • vigorous shake of Mrs. Dash (or other seasoning with coarse-ground pepper)

Preparation/Cooking:

In a 4-quart slow cooker set on LOW, combine the broth, dried pulses, and spices and set the lid in place.

In a saucepan, put the cleaned pinto beans in 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. When boiling, set a timer for 30 minutes.

While the beans are boiling, heat a skillet to medium high, and add the ground beef in small chunks. For a whole pound, I brown the beef in two lots so the skillet doesn't get too cool. Brown and season the beef as preferred. (I like a good crust on one side, so the caramelized flavor is obvious.) Drain the fat from the skillet when done.

When the timer goes off for the beans, remove them from the heat, and rinse them with cold water until the water comes off mostly clear. Drain and add the beans, the browned beef, and the salad greens to the slow cooker, stirring to mix them through the broth.

Discard or keep the salad toppings for other dishes; they are not used in the soup!

The soup should be cooked on LOW for at least 8 hours. I often cook it for 6 hours, then turn the heat down to WARM for another 4 to 5 hours.

I have never had success with this recipe cooked on HIGH, but I suppose it would take 4 hours at that setting. I always manage to forget it, and the soup is burned.