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.

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.

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LEMONY SOUP WITH WHITE BEANS, KALE, AND PASTA

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

garnishes

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.