Posted by: Hil | August 27, 2008

Quick Lemony White Bean and Kale Soup


My stomach is currently full of the above pictured goodness.  I am very happy.  But we will get back to that in a minute.  First, a quick rundown of the rest of the day’s food.

Breakfast was half an Ezekiel English muffin with peanut butter, a cup of Greek yogurt with agave and some tangerine wedges.


Lunch was leftover spatzle, a big side of kale, and a few slices of leftover pork.  Still great the next day.  (I didn’t end up taking quite that much spatzle.  After taking the picture, I realized that my eyes might be bigger than my stomach and put some of it back.  I have trouble maintaining perspective when presented with spatzle–so yummy!)


To go with, a brought a little can of v-8 juice…


…and, for snacks, veggies, dried apple rings and a spoonful of pistachios (hiding with the apple rings).  I also finished off the remaining bit of my 1.2 oz dark chocolate bar from yesterday.


But now, back to the main event of the day:  white bean and kale soup.  To me, there is nothing better than a hot bowl of soup for dinner.  And while soups do tend to be better the longer they simmer or sit, it is perfectly possible to whip up a delicious batch of soup in half an hour. 

First, we dice half an onion, 2 stalks of celery, and a small red bell pepper.  Then, we cook them over medium-low heat with a bit of olive oil in the bottom of our pot.  Since this is a fast soup, the softening phase should be longer…the veggies aren’t going to be simmering for hours, so you want them well-cooked before you add any beans or liquid.  This will also help the flavors develop.  When the veggies are close to done, add a few minced cloves of garlic and season the mixture with salt and pepper.  If I’d thought of it, I might have added a splash of white wine at this phase.


Next, we add our beans and liquid.  For the beans, we add one can of cannellini beans.  Generally, you should always rinse canned beans, but for a fast soup, adding the canning liquid helps to thicken the soup and adds flavor.  Although, if your canned beans are very high in sodium, you’re probably better off rinsing off the liquid so that you don’t wreck the seasoning of the soup.  I generally buy low-sodium canned beans so that I can control the seasoning of my cooking.  Whole Foods brand beans, while not labeled as such, tend to be lower in sodium than most brands.  And, in a complete upheaval of the universe, they are cheaper than good grocery store brands.  I am also partial to S&W, which has good low sodium varieties of most of their products.

If you don’t want to use the canning liquid for whatever reason, you do have one other fast option for thickening soup:  reserve 1/4 or so of your beans and give them a good mash with your fork before adding them to the pot.  This will release lots of lovely bean starch into the soup.  This is my method of choice for thickening quick black bean chili.

For the liquid, you can use water, but for a fast soup, it’s really best to use an already flavorful liquid.  The liquid just won’t have enough time to absorb the flavors of the vegetables and beans.  I recommend Imagine brand vegetable broth.  This is the best vegetable broth I’ve ever had and I’m known to drink it straight.  But it does have a very distinct flavor, so I often combine it with water or chicken broth to avoid overpowering the other flavors in my soup.


Regardless, add your beans and liquid and bring the soup to a boil.  At this point, add half a bunch of chopped kale.  Now lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or so…just long enough to cook the kale and let the flavors get acquainted.  When ten minutes are up or you get impatient, season with some more salt and pepper and add whatever herbs you think would taste good.  I used rosemary, sage, thyme, savory and crushed red pepper.  It’s important to use a slightly heavier hand with seasonings than you would with a slow-cooked soup.  Again, the flavors won’t have time to fully develop in 10 minutes, so you need to give your soup a helping hand.  I finished the soup with the juice of a lemon.  All soup benefits from the addition of some acid, and when you are trying to boost the flavor of a fast soup, lemon makes all the difference in the world.  It really livens it up and makes it more interesting.


The finished product, with a sprinkle of parmesan.  Very, very good.  Kale has a tendency to be tough, but this hardiness works brilliantly in a hot soup–no wilting down into nothing the way that spinach does.  The lemon really compliments the mild white beans, while the kale provides a bit of chewiness and depth of flavor.  And it is incredibly filling for the calories…this is what you get from combining leafy greens, beans and hot liquid.  All you need is some fruit and bread to have a complete dinner.



So I rounded out dinner with a serving of Kashi crackers…


…and a pair of clementines.




  1. that soup looks superfab. I loooove soups!

  2. Your soup looks delicious! Mmmmm.

  3. Great soup recipe – I am always looking for new ones for the winter, when I rely heavily on the crock pot for many days at a time.

  4. This soup looks so good! I have a question about the kale. I hate when chicken soup has escarole in it because it gets all thin and slimy. Does the kale stay “thick.” Oh and I don’t really like kale, do you think this recipe disguises the taste a bit?


  5. The soup looks great! Just in time for fall!

  6. Mmm, comforting soup!

  7. Heather–I am a fellow hater of wilted greens in my soup. Kale is one of the only greens that I would ever add directly to a bubbling pot of soup because it actually does stand up to the heat. It wilts down slightly, but doesn’t turn into slimy strings at all. As for the flavor, I like kale, so I may not be the best person to ask. All I can really say is that the flavor of cooked kale is milder than that of raw kale, and the experience of biting into the occasional mouthful of kale in a soup is quite different than eating a dish of it straight. I hope that helps!

  8. I LOVE those little cans of V8! They’re the perfect size and a whole serving of veggies! I always get the big pack when I go to Costco. 🙂

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