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Food: Tomato and white bean soup with sausage and kale

Tomato and white bean soup (Renee Kohlman)
Tomato and white bean soup (Renee Kohlman)

The first week of January is always a bit of a slog. The holiday excitement has long passed, and the shortbread tin is empty. Perhaps the only thing that remains of the Christmas tree is a faint layer of glitter on the carpet, but you don’t have the heart to vacuum it up just yet.

January is a bummer, probably more so this year. Where December was all about splurging on Toblerone and fancy cheese, January is more about staying within a tight budget and using up what you have in your pantry and freezer.

Alas, it’s a month to reach for foods that comfort you, and bring nourishment not only to your body but your soul. Soup is good for that, especially one where you can raid your pantry and skip a trip to the grocery store (and save money too).

Beans are a natural fit for soup, and I always have a few cans in the cupboard. Black beans, kidney beans, and white beans are so versatile and nutritious, they’re one of the best things to have on hand during times like we’re facing now.

Protein-packed and high in fibre, beans can be used in all sorts of recipes for dips and spreads, stews and chili, salads and pasta, heck even smoothies and brownies. Beans are super rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, and they’re inexpensive to buy. While the world flips and flops, it’s important to me that I eat healthy and watch the grocery budget. Beans check the boxes for both. And they taste good.

This soup recipe is hearty and rustic, but also super good for you. Pantry items like crushed tomatoes and chicken stock are used here, but if you only have diced or whole tomatoes, that’s fine. If you don’t have stock, you can use water. If you don’t have white beans, you can use kidney beans, or black beans.

I love using flavourful sausage as a base for soup, as all of the spices and herbs are right there. The type of sausage you use will have a huge impact on flavour, so choose from a local butcher, like the Pig and Pantry in Saskatoon, if you can.

If you want to keep the soup vegetarian, just add a teaspoon each of dried oregano, basil, and paprika to the vegetables.

Kale is my go-to dark leafy green, as it’s packed full of nutrients and the flavour compliments beans so well. If you turn your nose up at kale, then use cabbage or Swiss chard instead. Even a few handfuls of fresh spinach would do the trick.

If you have a hunk of cheese left over from that amazing cheese ball you made last month, you can grate some over each bowl, and the flavours will deepen even more. Be generous — these are the days for eating all of the cheese!

To round out the meal, serve the soup alongside slices of fresh sourdough or cheese biscuits, slathered generously with butter, of course.

There’s something quite soothing about a pot of something delicious bubbling away on the stove. Life carries on. We cook, we eat. I hope everyone reading this is safe and well. And I hope it stays that way. Happy New Year!

Tomato and White Bean Soup with Sausage and Kale

1 Tbsp canola oil

3-4 links fresh Chorizo or Italian sausage

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp salt

pinch red pepper flakes

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 (28 oz/798 mL) can crushed tomatoes

1 (16 oz/540 ml) can white kidney beans, rinsed

2 bay leaves

1 tsp honey

4 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed (can use spinach or Swiss chard instead)

1 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup chopped basil

salt and pepper to taste

grated Pecorino Romano, Parmesan or Asiago to serve

1. Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from casings and add to the hot oil. Break up the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon. Stirring occasionally, brown the meat for about five minutes.

2. Stir in the vegetables, garlic, salt and chili flakes. Cook for another five minutes until the vegetables soften. Add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes (rinse the can out with two cups of water), beans, bay leaves, and honey. Cover, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Add the chopped kale, and herbs. Cook two minutes longer. If you find the soup too thick, thin out with a bit more stock or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Divide the soup into bowls. Garnish with plenty of cheese. Makes six servings.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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