If you have ever experienced a life-altering event—such as having a baby, losing a loved one, or sustaining an injury—I hope that people converged upon your home with plates, pans and pots of food. What a comforting feeling to have neighbors, friends and family surround you, one visit at a time, one dish at a time. We experienced this joy when little Rosalie was born. We were so tired that it hurt. Who has time to cook when the learning curve of new parenthood is vertical? The food that people brought to us was the highlight of our blurry days and long nights.
Many dishes from those weeks were so delicious and sustaining that I asked my friends urgently, “How did you MAKE this?” Naturally, I can hardly remember what anyone said. I did remember one soup, though, because the concept was simple for such a full and bright flavor. My friend Teresa learned the recipe back when she lived in Italy, and brought it here, to me, in my pajamas. One bite and it was sunshine in Italy for a few moments.
Months later I had kale in my garden and a hankering for that soup. I pieced together what I remembered from her description and was thrilled with the results. Since then I have made this soup for friends, including a couple with a new baby. It received rave reviews and requests for the recipe. Here is how I made Teresa’s gorgeous soup. If you like it, maybe you’ll bring it to someone you love.
Italian Garbanzo Kale Soup
This soup spans seasons. It’s hearty and satisfying enough to warm you in autumn, yet its lemony freshness keeps it bright for spring days, especially the rainy ones. Though a vegetarian soup, it’s so savory that someone might ask if there’s meat in it. Oh yeah, and it’s easy and quick to make.
1 small bunch lacinato kale
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock will work, too, but I usually use vegetable stock)
1 – 2 Parmigiano Reggiano rinds*
4 cups cooked garbanzo beans (preferably dried/soaked and cooked in broth, but canned works fine, too. Use 3 cans, well rinsed, which is slightly more than 4 cups)
1 t dried thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 lemons, one juiced and the other in slices, for serving
Your best extra virgin olive oil, for serving
Shredded parmigiano, for serving
*This is an optional but delicious flavor booster. Just keep the hard rinds of your Parmigiano chunks when they are all used up. I store rinds in a ziplock in the freezer for all kinds of soups. The rind adds warmth and a depth to a soup’s flavor.
First, prep the kale. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Very important: remove the tough center veins by holding each leaf down, curly side up, and running your knife along both sides of the vein. Now you have a bunch of long pieces. Take these pieces and cut them crosswise into short strips, so that you have about ½ inch-by-2-inch rectangles.
In a soup pot, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in garlic and thyme, incorporating them in with the onions, sautéing for about a minute.
Pour in vegetable stock and bring to a low boil. (If you have those parmigiano rinds handy, add them now).
Add kale. Cook about 8 minutes, until almost tender.
Add the garbanzo beans. Simmer a bit longer until everything is tender. Taste the kale. It should still have a nice green color but is now easy to bite into.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. The amount of salt in the stock you use will determine how much salt you add. In general, soup usually requires more salt than I expect. If you are like this also, be generous with that salt.
With a large spoon or ladle, search around the pot for the parmigiano rinds. At this point they will be softer and spongier. Remove and discard them.
Remove about half—or slightly less—of the soup, and in batches puree the soup in the blender. This works best if you puree the different batches for varied amounts of time, because you’re trying to thicken the broth while also creating texture with small pieces of garbanzos and kale. Return purees to soup pot, stirring well. The broth should be thickened. If not, puree some more garbanzos.
Pour in the lemon juice, stir, and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Important: In each bowl, finish with olive oil, shredded parmegiano, and lemon wedges. Each bowl should have a good drizzle of oil and some parmigiano cheese on it to achieve optimal deliciousness, but the extra lemon is optional for you lovers-of-lemons (like myself). These fresh garnishes make all the difference in flavor. Alone, the soup is great. With the oil, parmigiano, and lemon, it’s molto delicioso.
Serve with a good, crusty bread, such as Pain de Campagne or a rustic Italian bread.
Makes six servings.