Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kale soup anyone?

In an effort to eat healthier and work more natural, whole foods into my family's diet, I've been wanting to explore kale, that wonderful, curly, hearty green that is usually wasted as decoration but almost never served as part of the meal. Packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Fiber, Calcium, Potassium, Omega 3 fatty acids and very few calories, this powerhouse vegetable is underused and underrated!

So I bought a head of it at my local fruit and vegetable stand (so affordable!!!) and went home determined to make it into a wonderful meal. What came out was a fantastic soup that my whole family enjoyed! Not kidding - my 11 and 8 year old boys scarfed it down, asking for seconds!

I adapted a recipe from Michele Scicolone's cookbook, The Italian Slow Cooker. Her recipe, Turkey Meatball & Escarole Soup highlights, you guessed it, escarole, which is more similar to spinach than kale, but this recipe called for the green to be cooked all day long in the crockpot and knowing that kale takes a little bit longer than most greens, I knew the exchange would work. So here's the recipe for the crockpot version:

3 large carrots, chopped
10 cups chicken broth (or a mixture of water and chicken broth)
1 medium head of kale, washed and cut into small pieces
1 lb ground turkey or ground beef
1 small onion, minced
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I use Panko or regular Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parm
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce - not in Scicolone's original recipe
Pearl Barley (about a cup) - not in Scicolone's original recipe

Combine the carrots, chicken broth, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir in the kale. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Add pearl barley after the first 4 hours.

In a medium bowl, combine meat, onion, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well and shape into meatballs (about 1/2 inch to l inch). Carefully place meatballs into soup. Cover and cook for 4 more hours or until meatballs and veggies are cooked through.

Like I said, it was a hit! I am not a fan of cooked veggies, unless they are roasted in olive oil in the oven. This is mostly because I think they lose their crunch and a lot of flavor. But the kale stood up magnificently to the task! It retained a beautiful al dente crunch and was packed with flavor it had picked up from the rest of the ingredients! Best of all, this soup, when shared with family members outside my immediate clan, inspired the purchase of kale and a branching out to new flavors!

So this weekend, I tried it again, but this time, I cooked it over the stove, in about 2 hours and it turned out wonderfully! The only difference was that I sautéed the carrots in olive oil for a few minutes before adding the kale. Then I added it and cooked them for about 5 minutes before adding the chicken broth and pearl barley. I brought this to a boil and then lowered the temperature, put a lid on and simmered it for about an hour. Then I added the uncooked meatballs to the mix, put the lid back on and cooked for another 1/2 hour. I took the lid off and cooked for another 30 minutes. I did need to add more stock/water to the soup in the end through this method (probably because the heat was higher than it should've been during that last 1/2 hour), but the soup turned out great, the kale still retaining its flavor and crunch.

I'm on the lookout for more kale recipes, so if you've got one, let me know! If you haven't tried cooking with kale, give it a shot! You might like it!


  1. We get a lot of kale in our CSA shares in the late spring/summer. I love it sauteed, too. This recipe looks like something we'll want to try.

  2. I have heard kale is delightful and healthy. I shall try it. Thanks for the recipe.