I've been doing this thing lately where I try to spend less than five dollars on lunch during the week. It's more difficult than you'd think, though perhaps not to those of you who work in Manhattan. A slice place opened up near me recently advertising one-dollar slices of pizza, which worked once or twice, but there's only so many times you can eat pizza for lunch before you start to feel a bit sick to your stomach. Then there are a few Middle Eastern places that sell sandwiches for three or four dollars at lunchtime, but I find myself burning out on those relatively quickly. Tahini just doesn't work every single day. And then there's the option of simply opening a can of soup or baked beans at the office, but that just gets depressing.
Of course, what would make this five-dollar challenge a lot easier would be to simply cook more at home and bring that food to work with me. So I've started cooking big yield recipes on Sunday afternoons, when I have time to sit around and watch pots boil. In the spring, Amy Scattergood wrote an article on the felicitous pairing of beans and greens, spurring me to finally place an order with Rancho Gordo. We gobbled up our two kinds of lima beans (Christmas and Giant White) and our Ojo de Cabras right away, but the Good Mother Stallards languished in the cupboard for eight long months. Who knows what I was waiting for? Well, actually, I do know.
This soup: a thick, flavorful, nutritious and simply gorgeous mixture of dark green kale, pale and chewy orecchiette, red and creamy beans, and ochre purée of paprika-scented beans and herbs that gets stirred into the soup, adding smoke and spice. Ooh yes! It was just as good as it sounds.
The topping of bean purée is really inspired: the soup without it is simply a very nice vegetarian soup that is hearty and rib-sticking and good for boxed lunches. But that purée (beans, pot liquor, sage, parsley, two kinds of paprika and lemon juice) elevates this soup into the sublime. I took the photo before stirring the puree into the soup - it thickens the broth and spreads the bright and smoky flavor throughout. Delicious.
Now my only problem is that Ben took all the leftovers for lunch.
Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 1/2 tablespoons, divided
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced, about 2 cups
2 medium carrots, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1 onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
3 cups dried cranberry beans or Good Mother Stallards, if you're lucky enough to have some hanging around the house
2 bunches lacinato kale, cleaned, stemmed and coarsely chopped, about 10 cups
3 cups dried orecchiette pasta (about 9 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh minced sage
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. In a 4-quart soup pot or cast iron casserole (with a lid that fits), heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and cook the leeks, carrots and onions over medium-low heat until just softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Add the dried beans and 12 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid, stirring occasionally. After about 45 minutes, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Continue to cook, covered, and again stirring occasionally, just until the beans are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour or more (this may vary according to the beans you use).
3. With a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of the beans and, separately, 2 tablespoons of bean liquor and set both aside. Add the kale to the soup, stirring in a few cups at a time as the greens wilt. Cover, and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes more until the greens are tender, then remove from the heat.
4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve.
5. In a food processor, combine the reserved beans and bean liquor, sage, parsley, paprikas and lemon juice, the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, then check for seasoning, adding more salt if desired, or bean liquor to aid in blending.
6. Just before serving, stir the cooked pasta into the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with about 2 tablespoons of spiced bean purée. Grate Parmesan over the top of each bowl to taste and serve immediately.