Potato - Kale Soup (including a sausage option)

With half a bag of potatoes to use up and a craving for green leafy vegetables (prompted by a delicious cup of wild nettle soup at the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian), this morning I decided to make potato-kale soup for this week's lunch rotation. Depending on your taste and status as vegetarian or not, you can make the the soup completely vegetarian, use a chicken stock base, or add sausage (about 1 lb., sauteed along with the onion - this will make a soup similar to the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden).

Potato - Kale Soup (6-8 servings)
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
8-10 cups liquid (I used 4 cups chicken broth, 1 cup vegetable juice, 1 cup white wine, and 2 cups water)
small piece of rind (~ 2 in. x 2 in.) from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 stalks celery
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lb kale, stems removed and leaves cut or torn
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil or Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1. Combine potatoes, liquid, and cheese rind in a large stock pot. Cook over medium heat about 10-15 minutes (until potatoes begin to soften), stirring occasionally.

2. While potatoes cook, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, celery, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Saute until onions and celery begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

3. Add onion mixture, kale, pepper, basil, and cumin to stock pot (don't worry - the kale WILL boil down and shrink!). Reduce heat to medium-low (slow boil) and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired / necessary, add additional water to soup while cooking to achieve desired ratio of vegetables to broth.

4. Remove any remaining cheese rind and serve!



Ever since traveling to India last year, I've been working up the nerve to try my hand at Indian cooking. For my first foray into Indian main dish cooking (that is, without a pre-made simmer sauce), I decided to try dal, a lentil stew that can be made in many ways with many types of lentils. This recipe provides a dish that is fairly mild - if you like something hotter, just up the amount of spices in the recipe, substitute cayenne pepper for black pepper, or add a fresh chile pepper. Also, this recipe calls for a full pound of lentils - but can easily be halved if you don't want to have A LOT of dal on your hands.

Dal (8-12 servings)
1 lb. (~ 3 cups) lentils
8 cups hot water
1 stick (2 1/2 inches) cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 T. curry powder
1-2 T. olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 T. fresh chopped ginger (or ginger paste)

1. Combine lentils, hot water, cinnamon, pepper, salt, cumin, paprika, and curry in a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a low boil and continue cooking untils lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.

2. While lentils are cooking, heat oil in a frying pan and saute onion, garlic, and ginger until onion is clear.

3. When lentils are ready, stir in onion mixture.

4. Serve over rice, with naan, or along side other dishes.


Sweet & Spicy Carrot - Ginger Soup (with Orange and Curry!)

In the past few weeks, DC has swung from a crippling snowstorm to 70 degree temperatures to flurries. With that sort of range in weather, what's a girl to make for a week's worth of lunches? I settled on a carrot - ginger soup that is both spicy (curry) and sweet (orange). This is a very easy recipe to put together and can easily be altered to fit your own tastes - more or less ginger, curry, and orange juice, depending on how sweet and spicy you prefer. Be forewarned, though - carrots can take a while to soften, so leave plenty of time for this soup to simmer before you puree!

Sweet & Spicy Carrot - Ginger Soup (4-8 servings)
1 lb carrots, sliced thinly
2 T. fresh-chopped ginger or ginger paste
1 T. curry powder
6 cups liquid (I used 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup range juice concentrate, and 3 cups water)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover and cook on medium (easy boil), stirring often, until carrots are softened (at least 30 minutes).

2. Puree in batches in a food processor or blender. Return to heat and cook and additional 5-10 minutes, stirring often, to make sure that soup is well blended. Adjust sweetness and spiciness by adding additional water or spices as necessary.

3. Serve piping hot, perhaps with a sprig of parsley for garnish!