It's Still Winter

Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

This has been such a warm winter and with all the trees and plants blooming it seems like spring. This weekend’s snow and chilly temperatures remind us that winter’s not over yet! Soon it will be time for salads again but for now use this season’s greens in a warm and comforting soup.

This Friday is St. Patrick’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with potatoes and kale? Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. I’ve made this dish before but potatoes and kale also make a good soup - and a beautiful, bright green one, too!

Once you’ve made potato soup enough times you don’t even need a recipe. Start by sautéing salted onion, shallots, or leeks in butter or oil. Once they’re soft, add some garlic if you’re in the mood for it. Add some potatoes, peeled or not, plus some more salt and water to cover. Cook the potatoes until they’re soft. Add enough liquid - milk, stock, and/or water -  to make the soup consistency you desire. Purée some, all, or none of it. Vary it with something green: broccoli, spinach, kale, or another green. Or something not so green: cauliflower or celery. Or orange, as in pumpkin chowder.

Until you can make potato soup in your sleep there are plenty of recipes out there to give you structure. In addition to the pumpkin chowder there is a recipe for potato leek soup on the blog. This potato kale soup recipe comes from Simply in Season which has at least a half dozen other potato soup recipes as well!

Right now just about all our farmers that grow greens have kale. The varieties range from light green to dark green as well as reds. There are frilly leaves, flat leaves, and leaves in between. I choose Red Russian this time: it has flat but toothed leaves and is a light green with red stems. Be sure to stem your kale but use those stems! Chopped and sautéed with the onion they are plenty tender, especially after being parboiled.

Precooking the kale helps it blend quickly with the soup at the end and keeps the kale flavor from overwhelming the potatoes. I boil mine for 7 minutes to reduce oxalic acid and goitrogens, but 2-4 minutes or even less can be enough if your kale is super tender or you like a stronger flavor.

I often find myself wanting something orange to contrast with whatever green thing I am cooking. An easy way to supply this is with a baked sweet potato or baked sweet potato fries. If I’m feeling energetic I might make some pumpkin muffins. Before I made my soup I put a pumpkin in the oven to cook and when it was done I took a taste. It was delicious as-is! I did salt it a little and added a little butter before pureeing it. It made a vibrant and tasty topping for my soup. Other topping options are cheese, regular or pumpkin sour cream, or bacon bits.

Kale Potato Soup

Adapted Slightly from Simply in Season
Yields 6 cups/1.5 L

1 large bunch kale (stemmed
Steam or parboil leaves and stems and set aside. (Don’t try to cook it with the potatoes; the flavor will be too strong.)

1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
Melt butter in soup pot. Add onion and saute until golden. Add garlic and chopped kale stems and saute another minute.

2 large potatoes (diced)
2 cups/ 500 ml hot water or broth
Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove half of the cooked potatoes; puree the rest with the cooking liquid and return to the soup pot. Return reserved potatoes and steamed kale to soup pot. (Puree everything if a smooth texture is desired.)

3 cups water, broth, or milk
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Pepper to taste
Add along with additional hot water or milk to preferred consistency. Heat gently until hot and serve.
Printable recipe here