We moved into our house only a few months after our son was born. He was nursing and in addition to feeling elated, frazzled and very tired, I was hungry. All the time.
One of the things I was hungry for, I discovered, was fresh raw kale from my neighbor’s garden. She’d bring out a bag and beg me to fill it from one of her elbow-height kale plants.
The first time I accepted her offer I felt like I was imposing. But tearing at the base of the leaves, I settled into her generosity and munched as I tucked away handfuls for later, sometimes folding whole leaves into my mouth. Oh! Was there ever something in those leaves my nursing body needed. Maybe vitamin A, C or K, calcium or potassium. Kale is high in all of these, and more. Or maybe I was just sleep deprived.
It’s funny how the eating habits in our culture have changed. I don’t think I’d heard of kale or chard before I was in my thirties. And collards registered as nothing more than a fuzzy detail I might have recalled from a novel set in the old South. My father-in-law, who worked in the grocery business for many years, says back in the day he prided himself in his PLU number recall capability. Since he knew the code for every variety of produce in the store, I imagine all the tired parent customers – passels of hungry kids in their shopping carts – gravitating toward his checkout line.
Today, he says, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the different types of produce. No one can anymore. In the greens aisle at the co-op the other day I saw two varieties of kale, chard, dandelion greens and collards. And there are a slew of Asian greens to try, falling on a continuum between salad and sauté greens - from mizuna and tatsoi to bok choi and napa cabbage.
Then there’s my new favorite, broccoli raab. This bunch appeared in our weekly box in July. As of this week we have another. This time the raw leaves have a bitter edge. This doesn’t stop me from eating them raw (bitter isn’t bad in my book) but it does make me think they’re a suitable substitute for the soup I’m sharing with you today. (Chie will return with original recipes in a few weeks.)
For those of you who follow the blog on our Facebook page, think of today as a study in substitutions. I included kale and white beans on your shopping list. Those are the official ingredients for this comforting soup. But in the interest of using local, available produce, this time I used our gorgeous broccoli raab and these cranberry beans, both grown by Calliope Farm. Why make an extra trip to the store when I have these available?
Garlicky Broth with Kale and Sweet Potatoes
from the October 2000 issue of Natural Health magazine
I received a typed copy of this recipe several years ago from my friend, Brooke (you can also find it here).
At the top she wrote, “First, you must prepare your immune system for a boost – the likes of which it has never seen before.”
Yes, indeed. This recipe calls for a lot of garlic. The first several times I made it, I couldn’t bring myself to put more than half of what the recipe calls for. But the broth is wonderful and mellow with the whole lot of it. I promise.
2 ½ tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
6 cups vegetable broth or combination of bean cooking liquid and water
3 cups cannellini beans, cooked and drained (reserve cooking liquid)
1 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
4 oz kale or other hearty green, tough stems removed, leaves chopped coarsely (about 4 cups)
12 medium garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and seasoning. Sauté until onion is soft and golden, about 6 minutes.
Stir in broth, beans, potatoes and kale.
For this batch I shelled and cooked fresh cranberry beans and substituted broccoli raab for the kale. I also used the reserved cooking liquid for the broth and made up the difference with water.
Bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add garlic to simmering soup base.
Simmer until potatoes and greens are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.