CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Kale And Sausage Soup

Kale has become pretty popular the past couple of years, no longer just a fad or something found strictly in vegan establishments. It’s making frequent appearance in many restaurants and is being found at more and dinner tables across America. In fact, in some circles, it enjoys celebrity status.

And there is good reason. Not only is kale readily available and cheap, it is highly nutritious. It is ranked among the top 10 of the world’s healthiest foods when it comes to providing the most nutritional value for the least number of calories. Kale also is a great source of health-providing compounds that have been shown to aid in digestion, lower the risk for cancer as well as lowering cholesterol.

Researchers also have identified more than 45 different flavonoids in kale, which give it a leading dietary role with respect to avoidance of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.

First-timers might find that kale when eaten raw, the cruciferous vegetable — a  cousin to collard greens — might be a little bitter, but cooking can remedy that. However, when used raw in conjunction with other greens, it’s a taste that will grow on you.

Therese and I often use raw kale in our salads, and I’ve also found it an excellent addition in soups. Recently, I made a pot of vegetable soup. The cup or so of kale I put in it definitely enhanced the flavor.

I’ve also found kale very good when steamed for about  for 5 minutes. (To ensure quick and even cooking cut the leaves into ½-inch slices and the stems into ¼-inch lengths. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes before steaming.)

My most recent cooking experience involving kale, which we have in our garden, is in the very tasty white bean soup recipe that follows. I’ve also included another soup recipe that we hope to try.

And as you might guess, kale isn’t just a fad at our house. It’s a staple, a food that I believe has contributed our good health!

Kale and White Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white beans or 2 cans (14 ounces each), drained, rinsed
1 quart chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium if canned
3 to 4 cups roughly chopped kale
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup cooked ground turkey or sausage (optional)
1 small fresh chili pepper, such a fresno or habanero, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
1 zucchini, sliced
2 small potatoes, diced
1½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 bay leaves
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan; add the garlic, onion and celery. Cook until aromatic, 1 minute. Stir in the beans to coat with the oil. Add the broth, potatoes, zucchini, baby kale and red pepper flakes; season to taste. Cover the pot; cook at a simmer until kale is wilted to your liking. Stir in the sausage, if using.
Yield: Serves 8.

Italian Sausage Soup
½ pound sweet Italian sausage, ground
½ cup uncooked long-grain white rice
6 cups beef broth
1 15-ounce can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 to 4 cups fresh kale
Cook ground sausage over medium heat in soup pot until meat is browned and crumbly. Add rice, beef broth, beans, tomatoes and pepper. Bring to simmer. Cover and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in kale. Let simmer a few minutes.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 143 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 23 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams protein, 736 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

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