The winter is coming and the little hints of darkness in the world sometimes seemingly become larger and more ominous as we lose hours of daylight and warmth. My heart goes out to all of those affected by the events that took place on the Ohio State campus on Monday morning. I could not express enough how important it is to create in times of the world’s troubles. Throughout my college and post-graduate education at Emerson College, I was constantly reminded by poets, novelists and memoirists of the 20th century that these dark times are ours for making beauty, ours for remembering and for brightening.
I have been attempting to make better habits out of submitting my works of poetry and have a selection of magazines I’d like to send individual pieces to. If you’re a practicing writer looking to submit, the Poets & Writers website is a great place to seek suggestions for submission. Once I’ve done a more substantial amount of submitting – and by substantial I mean some instead of none so far – I’ll be sure to share more about the magazines.
As the title of this post calls for, I have found a soul-encircling soup that is perfect for when the weather begins to deter our happiness. (I like to make the New England winters sound really ominous because I find it both interesting and humorous that I most definitely suffer from seasonal depression.) The bones of this recipe—not literally—originated in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The magazine is a personal favorite of mine and the subscription certainly keeps me interested and excited about adding new things to my kitchen resume.
Although I was not a huge fan of kale, I recently learned that it is much tastier when those pesky ribs in the middle are stripped away and the leaves are all that’s being eaten. Yes, I started eating kale before it was a huge trend and I did not know the ribs were supposed to be removed. Yes, I consider myself an intermediate-to-expert level home cook. Yes, I am OK with admitting this is silly and incorrect. I am mostly just excited that I can finally enjoy kale prepared at home because I couldn’t figure out why everyone else’s seemed SO good in comparison to mine.
In addition to the greens I am trying to fit into my diet, hence creating a soup that involves kale, I have been dying for a little kick. I’ve always been more comforted by a really good chili or tortilla soup than chicken soup when it comes to the coldest days of the year. This is because the spice that is typically included when it comes to chili or tortilla soup sort of extends the warming effect. If I eat something hot, brothy AND spicy, I feel like my chills will just go away and I’ll be able to focus on more important things. Instead of adding the obligatory hot pepper rings, cayenne pepper, jalapenos, hot sauce or other staple heat packing ingredients, I used my chili and garlic infused olive oil. I am obsessed with this olive oil. I used it on everything. I bought it over the summer at the outdoor Italian market in Philadelphia—I’m dying to go back—when I was visiting a friend and I need to either a) Venmo for more or b) order it from the website. The lovely little shop where I bought it is called Cardenas Oil & Vinegar Taproom and they have all kinds of wonderful goodies you might want to add to your pantry like infused oils, vinegars and different herbed salts, etc. It is absolutely magical and I need to find a place like this closer to me.
Now that I’ve rambled quite a bit, let’s get down to the recipe I have promised and thank you for your faithful readership until this big reveal.
6 tbsp. olive oil (or 4 tbsp. olive oil + 4 tbsp. fancy infused Chili & Garlic olive oil)
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic (3 if not using garlic-infused oil), chopped
8 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or 4 c. vegetable broth + 4 c. chicken broth for added flavor)
1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 c. pearl barley, rinsed (you can get this in bulk at Whole Foods without buying a package)
1 sm. bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into small pieces (collard greens also an option)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
2 pinches of red pepper flakes (optional KICK)
Salt & pepper
Grated cheese for garnish
Methodology and Execution:
- I usually eyeball my olive oil, but for the sake of the recipe, my instructions are 8 tbsp. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once you can see that the oil is moving around easily, you’ll know it’s hot. Add the onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. (Hint: A friend of mine recently informed me after taking a culinary class in Italy that garlic need not be peeled to have the same effects. I crush the cloves, inside their casing, with the flat end of a large knife, then throw in. The casing also has nutrients that add some extra benefits to the soup. Remove the cloves—if you wish—when the soup is done.)
- Once the onion is tender and translucent, about 6-8 minutes, add the tomatoes (Hint: Use whole, peeled crushed tomatoes if you don’t like chunky soup) with their juices and the broth(s) and bring everything to a nice boil. Add the barley to the boiling soup, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the kale, beans and red pepper flakes (optional) and simmer until the beans are heated through and greens are wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. I ended up simmering the soup almost an additional 20 minutes to ensure the kale had cooked down and all of the flavors had developed. I also did a few taste tests to make sure my lips got a little tingly from the spice—or else I would have had to add more flakes.
- Serving suggestion: ladle into bowls and add freshly grated cheese, toast some Italian bread for dunking.
I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I do—I wasn’t sure I would like it this much, but it is DELICIOUS! This is the desired result for testing out something new and developing along the way. I’m going to freeze some of this in small batches to have throughout the frigid winter. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Until next time,
♥ Food Snob