This soup was put together after a trip to the market. Make it with chicken or vegetable broth (homemade or canned), or just water—if you do the latter, add just a teaspoon of miso paste, to round out the flavors a bit.
- 1 onion
- 2 leeks
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small head fennel
- 1 turnip or rutabaga
- 1 small Japanese yam (or regular yam)
- 1 small potato
- 1 large bunch kale
- 1 1/2 quarts broth (or water plus one teaspoon miso), plus more as needed
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Halve, peel and slice the onion thinly. Discard the dark green tops from the leeks, leaving the white and pale green parts. Split them lengthwise, and wash well, being sure to get the mud and grit lodged between the layers. Slice them into thin half-rounds. Peel the carrot, cut it in strips and then dice into 1/4 inch pieces. Wash the celery, trim it and cut in similar size to the carrot.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery and sauté until soft over medium heat. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic, and trim the fennel by removing the stalks and fronds, and paring away any discolored areas. Quarter the fennel bulb, and slice thinly. Peel the turnip, quarter it and slice thinly as well. Do the same with the yam and potato (I sometimes leave the potato skin on). Strip the leaves from the kale stems and wash them well, making sure there is no mud caught in nooks and crannies. Cut them into fine shreds.
When the aromatic vegetables are soft, add the garlic and fennel and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Season the pot with a teaspoon of salt (if using canned broth, halve that amount—you can always add more later) and some freshly ground pepper, then add the turnip and potatoes, and stir together for a minute. Add the kale, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. When the vegetables start to stick, it’s time to add the broth. Cook the soup together for at least 30 minutes, until the vegetables are all soft, and the kale is very tender. Taste, season again, and if it’s too thick add more broth or water. Serve as is, or use an immersion blender to partially puree the soup. Amounts in this recipe are approximate, as the size of each vegetable is so variable. The soup should be peppery, savory and delicious. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of good extra-virgin oil and some grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Note: the vegetables were what I found in the market. You can substitute, mix and match, using cabbage for kake, or even turnip greens—which make a great soup vegetable, should you buy baby turnips in the bunch. You can eliminate any vegetables you don’t like. Substitute a jar of cannelloni beans or chickpeas for the potatoes, and you have a totally different soup. Add some canned tomatoes (rather than insipid fresh winter ones) or a bit of tomato paste, and you have another soup altogether. This is a soup that has no rules, except that it be fresh, hearty and packed with nourishing vegetables.