January 24, 2014

Lemony Soup with White Beans, Kale, and Pasta

Since we last talked, I've been working on a few healthy adjustments to my life, making a slow and much needed transition from living off of waffles and beer, to living with more beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, which in hindsight I should have introduced more slowly (sorry Brent). For the last few weeks I have felt really itchy and dry, and I have this embarrassing case of dandruff and a weird patch of dry skin on and in between my eye brows. I have a real tiredness that I can't seem to shake (oh, and did I mention these new and scary weird itchy bites that I have all over my body. Seriously, I am falling apart people). I spent a few hours on the computer researching depression symptoms (and bug bites) , and then I realized that if I was truly depressed, the chances of me strumming up the motivation to research it on the computer would probably be little, so then instead, I went and impulse bought (because that's what I do when I step in Sephora, hoping it will make me feel better, but always makes me feel worse) a whole slew of moisturizers that left my face with a thick greasy sheen (and then there was that one that smelt like burn skin, or that might have been my skin, I'm not too sure). I can't seem to get rid of this dry skin and my winter funk, so now I am taking matters a little more seriously, and by serious I mean making real changes instead of trying to throw money at the problem. I've also realized that I could probably do with drinking more water, always struggling to get my 8 cups. And then at the end of the day when I'm trying to squeeze in as much water as possible, the rational side of me knows that wine doesn't count, but the less rational side makes excuses whenever possible.

Let me tell you about my week this far (this is the part where I forgive you if you want to skip to the next paragraph where I talk about soup and tasty stuff). It's been full of weird self pity and doubt that began with this horrible haircut that I got a few days ago, which is so annoying, because when I think back to last week, my hair looked good (which should be a lesson in the obvious pointlessness of trying to fix a good thing). "Can you lighten up the ends a bit, something natural and summery, a little change", I asked the seemingly competent hair dresser with the obvious bad hair, who charged me $170 for the worst hair experience ever. Firstly, I should have known something was fishy considering she was able to see me the next day. Secondly, it's important that your hair dresser have good hair, if not, major red flag, just walk out the door and don't look back. To keep this story short, she cut some short layers into my hair, which just accentuated the mullet that I have been trying to grow out since last year (the aftermath of my pixie cut). She put a lot of really bold and brassy highlights at the tips, which looked like I dipped my hair in a can of yellow paint. I went to another hair dresser the next day (who also had bad hair and fit me in that day) but I was desperate to fix this situation, and was really asking for trouble based on my previous advice. She cut away most of the dye and most of the length. When she asked me if I dyed my hair myself, I knew things were bad and that Brent was just lying to me. Luckily, I'm over the hair, and now trying to deal with the new itchy welts all over my body. It's been a hell-of a week folks, but I feel mildly better being able to get things off my chest.

Now lets talk about this soup and all of the delicious bits that is encompasses. I made this lemony, white bean, kale, and pasta soup for the first time over the Christmas holidays, after a trip to the grocery store, a handful of my favorite ingredients thrown into a basket. I had just received the book Jerusalem as a gift, and was busy bookmarking the dishes I was most eager to try. That coupled with my current obsession with Mamnoon a Lebanese/Syrian restaurant here in Seattle, I have been craving Middle Eastern type flavors, and gathered some inspiration for this dish from those two influences.  This soup was one of the best things I ate over the holidays, in addition to that coconut cupcake. I was planning to share the recipe a while back, but Deb from Smitten Kitchen posted a similar recipe for Parmesan Broth with Kale and White Beans, and I figured it best to space things out a bit.
The version that I made over the holidays did not included pasta, nor was it as substantial. It was more of a broth with a few bits of beans and kale, perfect for dipping a few pieces of thick crusty bread. This time around, I wanted something with a bit more heartiness and bulk, so I added in some dilanti pasta noodles and a hefty sprinkle of beans. The broth is so flavorful from the lemon, Parmesan cheese, garlic and onions, it's incredible. Do you ever go out to eat and order a risotto or pasta, or fish with a nice sauce, and are really tempted to start liking the bowl in public? All of the delicious flavors soaked up in those final few drops. This soup is like the last bits of sauce left on your plate, the ones that you want to slurp up with your finger. It is unlike any other soup broth that I've tasted before. To be perfectly honest, I could sit down and slurp up a bowl of broth on it's own, but the addition of beans, potato, pasta, and kale are equally as great, because the flavors soak up into each piece, each grain, each bite. This version is hearty, comforting, and filling, but If you are wanting something lighter, more of a consomme before dinner, I suggest leaving out the pasta and reducing the beans by half. Happy wintering, and a big fat YES! to more soup related meals.

makes 6 - 7 servings 

1 cup dry white navy beans
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 small white potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
8 cups vegetable stock
1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 cup dry ditalini pasta (optional)
3 oz parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups kale, chopped

olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

Immerse the beans in cold water, and soak overnight for at least 12 hours. Rinse and set to the side.

In a large soup pot, on low-medium heat, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the potato and continue to fry for another minute. Add the vegetable stock, juice from one lemon, and beans and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the beans are soft.

Add the pasta (which is optional) and parmesan cheese, and continue to simmer until the pasta is al dente, approximately 10 minutes. Add the kale and simmer until tender, and the pasta soft. At this point, you may need to add some boiling water to the soup, as some of the stock may have evaporated (1/2 - 1 cup should be sufficient).

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese.

Can be stored in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for 2 months. The noodles with expand over time, absorbing the broth. You may need to add some water to thin out the soup when you reheat for leftovers.


  1. A few years back I got this itchy bite type rash as well. It was most prominent on back of my knees, inside of my elbows, where my bra strap was on my back, around my waist band...I went to see my dermatologist and he ordered my to avoid all known allergens in food for 10 days and to then slowly reintroduce one by one. So I cut out yeast (it's everywhere!), strawberries, shellfish, peanuts (the list went on) and it improved immediately. It turned out I was not allergic to any of those things, but stress had caused some reaction and cutting out that much allowed for my body to readjust.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  2. i wish i could bake you a cake! or at least find some super power that will allow to wine to hydrate us all as well as water. what a week you've had! i've been totally struggling with the dry skin too. wtf?! i have at least cracked the code to softer lips, and that is religiously putting on a SHIT TON of lip balm every night before bed.

    but i don't know how to fix my icky crackly hands. argghh..

    this soup looks delicious! we happen to have an abundance of beans and lemon juice so i think this will have to happen in the near future!

  3. I'm sorry to hear of the hair fiasco, the itchies, and the week (vent away!) but I'm so glad you had, in all this, a lovely soup to dig into. This is everything I love in a soup -- a meal -- and hopefully it brought you the comfort you needed! By the way, I share your struggles with drinking more water, I often find myself at the end of the day trying to drink up to make up for the day...but you know what? Soup counts!

  4. I think part of my problem with dry, itchy skin is that getting older has robbed me of all of my estrogen! I know that's not your problem, lucky girl, but wind and weather have a big part of it, too. I made some salve that I use on my hands and even a dab on that nasty dry patch that I too have between my eyebrows.....grrr. It's amazing how I keep putting stuff on my skin, and then have to do it again almost instantly. At least we have soup, and I just happen to have all the ingredients for that heavenly-sounding brew. Will be trying it this weekend.

    xo Linda

  5. I have been through the SAME thing! I was feeling slow, tired, I was getting dry skin, I was bloated.. The list keeps going on.. I have a friend who is a nutritionist and she told me to start my day with a green smoothie and the key was leafy greens and CHIA. Chia keeps you hydrated and full I eat a TB of chia daily and I feel awesome.

    On another note, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog posts. I'll definitely try making this soup, maybe even today!

    If you are interested in some smoothie recipes and healthy eating options check out my blog, it's focused on that: www.goodeatsfeelgreat.com

  6. For all kinds of dry skin complaints try rubbing on oil. I buy it in the grocery store and it works really well.

  7. Just wanted to share. I take fish oil, borage oil (GLA) and collagen drops daily and it makes a big difference in dry skin. I buy it all from a health food store. No side effects but a glass of orange juice as a chaser is recommended. It is the taste that isn't nice.

  8. I know that dry skin! The best stuff that I found works is Vitamin E oil and Simple Sugars (purchase online.)

    Your soup looks beautiful! Almost too tasty and too beautiful to eat especially with kale!

  9. Oh man, I could have written this almost word for word (minus the hair cut stuff because I'm about a year overdue for a hair cut and just can't summon up the energy to make an appointment). I'm totally blaming January but I think I need more meals like this in my life to try and take some control back and not spend all my time moping around.

  10. Just finished making this soup and it's a winner! Hoping there'll be leftovers to bring to work tomorrow but I'm not so sure...

  11. Tried this recipe last night. AMAZING! Thank you!

  12. Your photography is so beautiful, per usual. I absolutely love adding kale to soup; I always put it in my chicken soup and even the kids eat it! Will be trying this recipe for sure, perfect for warming up the recent cool weather :)


  13. Ha – I enjoyed reaching this post... I mean I'm not happy that your skin is dry or you had two bad haircuts, but I know the feeling :) Hope you're skin feels better soon – every consider coconut oil... and lots of water of course!

  14. Oh man, I feel you on the hair. The exact same thing happened to me but in reverse a couple years ago. I went in to get my long hair cut into a bob, it TANKED (yup, MAJOR red flag when you hate your hairdresser's hair!), and ended up getting it cut into a pixie cut the next day because I had no choice! You never want to get a pixie cut out of desperation! Things turned out well in the end, but I also feel you on the growing-out mullet. Never again!

    I hope your skin gets better. And this soup looks delicious. :)

  15. Great recipe Heather. We tried it last night...delicious

  16. What about using beans from a can? Anyone try this?

    1. Yes, the first time I made this recipe I used white beans from the can. Substitute 1 can of dry beans for the 1 cup of dry. Reduce the initial simmer time from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.

  17. look into eczema and possible thyroid problem if your issues don't resolve. get an MD involved.

  18. This looks delicious and I can't wait to make it tomorrow night.
    Side note - Google Candida Yeast Overgrowth or Leaky Gut. I know it sounds crazy, but I've been doing a lot of research on it. We found a great probiotic that specifically targets Candida (unlike the yellow box drugstore variety.) It's been helping me with my anxiety and also helping my son's terrible itchy skin. Everyone has some candida in their body, but antibiotics, poor diet, medications, etc can all cause an overgrowth which often shows up as a skin condition. It's really kind of fascinating! Good luck.

  19. I love this soup!! It's amazing! I've made it three times, it's simply a great recipe. I always add the lemon, garlic, parmesan and beans and then I vary the ingredients depending on what I can find in the fridge :)

  20. I made this soup for dinner tonight. I meant to add the pasta, but forgot it. It was delicious and with a big salad made a fantastic meal.

  21. This soup is so good!!! Thank you for sharing :)

  22. Just wanted to thank you for this great recipe! I made it tonight for my family and it was so good! Thank you very much for sharing the recipe! It's a keeper!