Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheap Grub


Last year or so I was talking about how most green leafy vegetables come in strangely large units. Cabbage, napa, collards, that stuff. Kale seems to be the exception to the rule, at least lately. I go to Fred Meyer and they're asking a buck-fifty for like, 6 meager leaves. Pfffft! That's maybe a serving? Ridiculous. Back to Trader Joe's. A big bag of kale there is about $2, and it's ready to go in the pot when it gets home. This soup is unremarkable looking, but it's tasty as well as cheap, and you only need one big pot to cook it.

Kale and Sausage Soup with Lentils and Things

1 italian sausage link, mild or hot- about 1/4 lb
1 onion
1 clove garlic
6 or 8 mushrooms
2 tsp broth concentrate
2 T tomato paste
1/4 cup brown, black, or green lentils
water, of course
2 carrots
1/2 bag of kale
salt & pepper

Use a 4 or 5 quart sauce pan with a fairly heavy bottom. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in it, and put in the sausage to brown. Meanwhile, dice the onion & mushrooms. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and stir them around. As the onions brown, start cutting little bits off the sausage. This will make the sausage into unevenly sized lumps, from little tiny grains to maybe half-inch chunks. When the sausage is browned, crush in a clove of garlic. Fry the garlic just until it is barely browned then add about 6  cups of water, the tomato paste, broth concentrate, and the lentils. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and leave it alone for about 45 minutes. Peel and chop the carrots, then add them and the kale to the pot. You may need to add a little more water, due to evaporation. Cover the pot again and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until the kale is tender. It takes a long time. Taste for salt and pepper, serve with a dollop of greek yogurt if you feel indulgent.


1. Yes, this recipe takes at least a good 2 hours. It's soup. Proper soup often takes a long time to develop flavors.
2. You could just squeeze the guts out of the sausage link instead of dinking around with it in the pan. But I happened to want the extra texture from the bits of sausage casing. Kale is very assertive, it needs plenty of assertive, bumpy, things to go with it.
3. Kale also cooks down quite a lot. Let it wilt into the soup pretty well before adding any additional water during the second half of cooking, or you may get an inaccurate idea of how much water you need to put in.
4. This soup needs a good bit of salt. The long cooking time causes the vegetables to become quite sweet, and the tomato paste adds plenty of sugar also. If you don't salt it, it will be very disappointing.
5. Likewise, do not use sweet italian sausage. It usually has too much fennel, and will not give the peppery kick the soup needs.
6. Brown, green, and black lentils hold their shape well when they're boiled. If you just want to thicken the soup, use red lentils, which dissolve rapidly during cooking. I used green ones, incidentally.

You need some nice crusty rolls with this, I think.

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