Spicy Cabbage, White Bean, and Sausage Soup
August 21, 2015
This summer my sisters and I went camping. It was my first time camping in over a decade. Two things stand out to me about the experience. First, the bugs. On the one hand, my newfound love of gardening has given me an appreciation for bugs and their role in our ecosystem and as allies in producing food. On the other hand, bugs are the worst. They were unbearable. In uncharacteristic fashion, I took relish in slathering my body with toxic bug spray. I don’t even want to know what is in that stuff. (Non-toxic bug repellent suggestions are welcome.) Second, the peacefulness. In my daily life, I, like most of us, am constantly bombarded with potential distractions, not the least of which is the perpetual need to fend off unproductive thoughts: Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Have I made the right choices? But out in the woods, I didn’t think about any of this. It is no surprise that research demonstrates the many cognitive and emotional benefits of being in nature. Walks in the park are good, but camping takes it to another level. There is something about having to get things done, like eat, sleep and repel bugs, without modern conveniences that makes it almost impossible not to live in the present moment.
What does camping have to do with this spicy cabbage, sausage and white bean soup? Not a damn thing. But I couldn’t bear to find myself writing once again about the school work, and the attempts to find work-life balance, that have been consuming my daily life. No, writing about camping is much more pleasant. And it gives me an opportunity to post some of the photographs I took on the trip.
I will admit that spicy soup is not really a summer dish. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be slurping down hot soup in the middle of a sweltering day – and we have had quite a few of those in the past few weeks. I could wait for a chilly day in September to post this soup, but the truth is, this soup is one of the best things that I have ever made in the kitchen. I found myself impatiently waiting to bust out the leftovers each night, in spite of the weather, and I can’t wait to share the recipe with all of you.
This recipe has been in the works for a few months now. I started working on it, you know, in the winter, when normal people eat soups. But I continued making it several times over the spring and summer because it makes good use of leftover summertime ingredients: cabbage leftover from my favourite fish taco slaws and sausages leftover from M’s favourite summer barbeques. This time, I decided to add some jalapeños that needed using up, and the heat from these peppers is really what makes this soup into something extraordinary. You can skip it if you don’t like spicy, but you would be missing out.
When it comes to beans, I always use dry. They work out to be cheaper if you cook with beans often, they allow you to avoid potential toxin exposure from BPA in can linings, and I find they just taste better. The trick is, though, to remember to soak them the night before and cook them before you start supper. If you forget, or if you are otherwise pressed for time, using canned beans cuts down on the cooking time for this recipe significantly.
Adapted from this soup at The Unorthodox Epicure
- 3/4 cup dried navy beans, (or, about 2 15 oz cans)
- olive oil
- 3 sausages*, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1-2 jalapeños**, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
- 10 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- handfull fresh basil, chopped
- few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- parmesan cheese, grated
- (Skip this step if using canned beans.) The night before making the soup, place beans in a medium sized bowl, cover with water, and let sit overnight. Drain beans, place in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow beans to simmer until soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain beans and set aside. This step can be done in advance.
- When ready to make the soup, put olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add sausage and saute till golden brown on all sides. Remove sausages from the pot and set aside.
- Add onion and jalapeño, stir to incorporate the sausage flavour from the bottom of the pan, saute until translucent, about 5 min. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a for another 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced cabbage and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock, sausage, basil, thyme, celery seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil; reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 20 minutes minutes, adding the beans in the last few minutes of cooking.
- Serve the soup topped with the grated parmesan. I also served mine with Peter Reinhart’s amazing focaccia bread .
* Any type of sausage will do.
** I used two jalapeños, seeds and all. It was a very spicy soup, which we like around here, but if you aren’t so keen on heat, use only one and/or remove the seeds.
Asparagus Pizza with Spinach and Beet Green Pesto
May 18, 2015
My effort to cook seasonally is a relatively recent project. Attempting to be mindful of cooking with what is in season has made me realized that there are many fruits and vegetables that for most of my life I have never even tried, let alone learned to cook with. The standard North American diet, as I tend to refer to the foodways of my childhood, consists of a shockingly limited variety of fresh produce. This limitation is especially unfortunate when we consider the emphasis that nutritional guidelines increasingly place on the general principle of variety. Learning to work with unfamiliar produce has come more easily for some seasons than for others and I have found spring to be the most elusive. This year, I wanted to tackle spring produce and I have started with this asparagus pizza with spinach and beet green pesto.
With the exception of a few grilled asparagus sandwiches M made for me in the early years of our relationship, I have never really eaten asparagus. It was too unfamiliar and too pricey to find its way onto my childhood table and by the time I was an adult I certainly did not know what to do with it. For this recipe I used early season, relatively thin asparagus. Had they been bigger I would have shaved them into ribbons and piled them on the pizza for more appealing visuals, but they tasted great chopped as well. At the moment I have another batch of thicker asparagus in the refrigerator with my vegetable peeler’s name all over them. They will be going into a spring vegetable carbonara I am making tonight for the second time.
In addition to the asparagus, this pizza involves another step outside of my cooking comfort zone – the pesto-like green base. This is the first time I have made, or eaten, a pizza without a red sauce. Granted, the pesto was not quite as “saucy” as a tomato-based sauce might be. However, it is delicious and makes for a great way to amp up the nutritional value of a pizza. The 3 small pizzas this recipe makes contain 2 ½ cups of greens. The “pesto” was made, not with herbs, but with a mixture of greens. I used beet greens, spinach and arugula, but any combination of greens would work. Around my house, greens have been known to find their way into the trash before being used up, so I am always looking for a good way to incorporate them into meals. My other go-to “quick use up these greens” dish is this cardamom chicken.
The two other main components of this pizza are the crust and the balsamic reduction. For the crust I used this recipe by Peter Reinhart. It is the dough recipe I have been using for a few years now and it makes an amazing thin and crispy crust. Of course, any store-bought crust would work and would certainly save time. However, I prefer to make a big batch of this dough and freeze the leftovers. This also saves some time, and results in homemade freezer meals. Balsamic Reductions are something I was introduced to via an Ottolenghi cookbook and I have since used them on a variety of roasted veggie sandwiches and salads. The reduction adds both a tartness and a sweetness and prevents the pizza from feeling too dry.
- 1 Cup Beet Greens
- 1 ½ Cups Spinach/Mixed greens*
- ½ cup Almonds
- ½ Cup Parmesan, grated
- 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tb olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- ½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- ¼ cup Sugar
- ½ Recipe Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough or store bought dough
- ½ bunch of Asparagus, chopped or shaved
- 4-5 strips of Prosciutto, torn into small pieces
- ¼ Cup Goat Cheese
- * You can substitute any combination of greens you have on hand
- **This recipe tends to make about 3 9” pizzas for us and is enough to feed two adults with leftovers for lunch the next day.
- About 45 minutes before you plan to bake the pizza, place a pizza stone into the oven and heat to 475. If you are not using a pizza stone, there is no need to heat the oven so far in advance. As the oven heats, prepare the pesto and the balsamic reduction:
- For the pesto: in a small pot, blanch the greens in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove the greens from the pot with a slotted spoon and set them aside to drain. Blitz the almonds in a food processor until finely ground, add the parmesan cheese, garlic, and mixed greens. Blitz the mixture, adding olive oil until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.*
- For the balsamic reduction: place balsamic vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer till the mixture thickens.**
- Assemble pizza: tear off a square of parchment paper, about the desired size of your pizza, and place on top of an overturned cookie sheet***. Roll or stretch out the dough with the backs of your knuckles as thinly as possible and lay on top of the parchment paper. Spread the pesto over the pizza dough in a thin layer. Sprinkle the asparagus on top. With a small spoon, break the goat cheese into clumps and distribute evenly across the dough.
- Transfer the pizza onto the baking stone by sliding the pizza, and parchment paper, off of the cookie sheet and onto the stone. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and browned at the edges. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle on the prosciutto and drizzle the balsamic reduction on top.
*I used the leftovers of this pesto for an avocado pasta similar to this recipe , but the remainder can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then popped out into a freezer bag for later use.
**This reduction can be kept in the fridge for a long time and tastes great on roasted veggies and sandwiches.
***You could also use a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal, if you have one. I do not, and the cookie sheet with parchment paper works just fine.