mediterranean kale & sausage soup

Creamy white beans, boldly flavored sausage and bright vibrant kale – have I captured your attention yet, dears?

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I kept promising myself that as the days became warmer and the sun stayed out longer, I would try to wean myself of my winter soup addiction {does anyone remember the “promise” I made from an earlier post about chicken pho? AHEM}. I guess that there is just one habit I will never kick, and that is my love for soup.

We have truly had the weirdest of winter and spring this year. With weeks ranging in temperatures from below freezing to 70+ degrees, it makes it almost impossible to successfully meal plan! I kid you not – days ago I was in shorts and a tank top walking the pup, then not 24 hours later am I bundled in my favorite college hoodie and Uggs, curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace.

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Enter this soup. It was one of those cold, dreary days that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be winter or spring, so after getting home from work I began rummaging around in my pantry. I had bookmarked this particular recipe some time ago {I love it so much because it’s reminiscent of a soup my mom used to make} and I thought that this would be the prime opportunity to prepare it.

Essentially a one-pot wonder {you can easily brown the sausage in the soup pot, thus allowing the brown bits to further enhance the soup broth} it comes together in a matter of minutes. Prepping the vegetables while the sausage cooks saves you time even further – you really can’t mess this soup up! And fear not, if you’re short an ingredient or two it is easy to adapt – throw in some fresh baby spinach {or even frozen!..just make sure it’s drained} instead of kale; shredded chicken is a fine replacement for the sausage if you don’t have any on hand, or just omit for a vegetarian option {assuming you use a vegetable and not chicken-based sauce}. I also love the addition of the briny cheese rind- if you keep these on hand in your freezer, it is a MUST in this soup!

I would not be upset if you choose to double this recipe for easy weeknight dinners; in fact, I would encourage it! It freezes beautifully, and you can always add in additional greens when reheating for dinner. A little extra sausage is never a bad thing, either. I will freely admit that I’ve had this straight out of the bowl from the refrigerator; it is just as delicious cold as it is warm. Enjoy, my dears!

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Mediterranean Kale & Sausage Soup

{recipe adapted from Fine Cooking}

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, sliced (about 3 links)*
2 Tbs. olive oil
One-half small yellow onion, cut into small dice
1 medium carrot, cut into small dice
1 rib celery, cut into small dice
5 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 lb. 3 oz. can cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked dried beans
1 lb. kale, rinsed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups firmly packed)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)

*I added in a few pieces of parmesan rind during the cooking process – I always trim these off when I open a new block of cheese and toss them right into a freezer bag into the freezer. They add a wonderful depth of flavor to broth!

*I also added a few links of turkey sausage; a leaner option, the best of both worlds 

To Make:

Preheat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, and drizzle with olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add in the sliced Italian sausage {and turkey sausage if you’re using that as well}. Saute until cooked through, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess fat. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, drizzle in a generous amount of olive oil. Bring up to temperature, and add the onion. Cook stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about two minutes. Add in the celery and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and brown, about 2 more minutes. Be sure to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan – that’s flavor right there! Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute more. Add in the stock and cheese rind and bring to a boil over high heat.

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When the broth reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and stir in half the beans. Mash the other half with a fork {this helps to release the starch, a natural thickening agent} and fold into the soup.  Add in the kale and fold into the hot soup base, continuing to stir it in and the kale begins to wilt, about 10 to 15 minutes {I like my kale to stay slightly bitey, so I tend to err on the lower cooking time}. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty French bread for dipping.

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