Daughter Miriam is on an elimination diet and can only eat protein and leafy greens—no seeds (including black pepper), nuts, or root vegetables. Added to the problem she has with the Allium family—garlic and onions—this is proving quite the culinary challenge. For Sunday dinner, I am making a soup with several greens—kale, escarole, and watercress—leaf herbs—such as thyme and summer savory—and poached chicken.
Note: I originally planned on calling this “green soup,” but my family suggested that the soup needed a PR makeover—although it is visually true that this is a “green” soup, most people find green food unappealing. They suggested that—since the soup was filled with nutrient rich greens—“super food” was a more enticing descriptor.
Kale can be a problematic vegetable when you use it in a soup. The first time I used kale in a soup, I cut the leaves into half inch strips. Even after 10 minutes of simmering, the kale was still tough and chewy. John Villa gives the secret to avoiding this culinary problem, “What’s crucial when preparing it is that the kale is cut into extremely fine slices.”
After Dinner Note: While this soup has very few standard aromatics—read garlic, onions, and pepper—it still came out quite flavorful. Daughter Miriam took the leftovers home with the idea of adding some coconut milk to the soup. While I did not think of it at the time I have since thought that serving a dollop of sour cream would also have been a good addition to individual bowls.
Karl’s Super Food Soup with Chicken
3 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
1 bunch kale (I’m using Tuscan kale)
1 head escarole, coarsely chopped
1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped
½ cup green onion tops, sliced finely
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 large stalks celery, diced
1. Cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces and set them aside.
2. Shred the kale as finely as you can.
Tip: Remove the stringy center rib of each leaf. Roll several leaves together and slice the rolls finely—chiffanade.
Note: While the center rib is technically edible it is tough, stringy, and takes much longer to cook than the leaves. You may cook them into this soup’s base stock and then blend them into a puree or save them to add to your next soup stock.
3. Chop the escarole, watercress and onions and set them aside.
Note: While daughter Miriam cannot eat onions the tops of green onion do not have whatever compound is giving her difficulty.
4. Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add half the celery.
Note: Normally I would add some salt to speed up the browning of sautéed vegetables, but I am planning to add Better than Bouillon later. This savory paste is quite salty—even the reduced sodium versions—and I have learned to add no extra salt when I add it to a dish.
5. Sauté the celery for 2-3 minutes and add about a third of the shredded kale.
6. Sauté the vegetables for another 2-3 minutes, until the kale is wilted.
7. Add half of the chicken broth, the bouillon paste, thyme, savory, and bay leaf to the vegetables in the pot.
8. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat.
9. Simmer the soup base for 10 minutes.
10. Transfer the soup to a standing blender and process it to a smooth puree.
Tip: If you do not really like bay leaf, do not forget to fish it out before blending your base stock.
Note: I forgot, but it did not over-power the soup’s flavor.
11. Return the soup to the pot and bring it back to a simmer.
Tip: Use the rest of the broth to rinse out the blender jar.
Note: Return the bay leaf to the soup.
12. Sprinkle the rest of the kale into the pot.
Tip: Do not add the shredded kale in a big bunch. The tough little threads of leaves will tie themselves into knots. Adding them gradually prevents this from happening.
13. Stir in the chicken bits.
14. Simmer the kale and chicken for 5-10 minutes.
15. Ten minutes before serving, add the escarole, watercress, and onions to the soup.
Tip: These leafy vegetables cook very quickly and you do not want them to turn into vegetable sludge.
16. Serve the soup hot with black pepper and Sriracha on the side, for those diners who wish to spice up their individual servings.