Kale, Sausage and White Bean Stew
You know what's fun? When you slave over a big pot of delicious stew (and by 'slave over' I mean slap together in about 45 minutes including cooking time) and your husband says something like, 'this soup is delicious, especially this sausage. I love the sausage.' But you can't take credit for the sausage because, like I said, this is a 45 minute deal, not a stuff-your-own-sausage deal. In other words, you bought the sausage, and it's the only thing you can't really take credit for.
Then again, who the heck cares, because this soup is wonderful and fast and perfect for autumn. Oh, and speaking of autumn? Pancha (the pup) just comes back to life in the autumn, after the heaviness of summer starts to lift and she can breath again without panting. Want proof? Here we are in Central Park having a sniff around in the grass.
Oh, and speaking of Central Park? Nothing better than Central Park in the fall.
So anyway, this soup was originally meant to be made with escarole, a green, as the yellow Gourmet Cookbook says, that looks like a head of lettuce but is actually in the endive family. It's in season now, and supposedly not hard to find at a well-stocked grocery store. And if I had a well-stocked grocery store nearby, this very well could have ended up being an Escarole, Sausage and White Bean Stew. But I make a point not to go running all over the city for specific kinds of greens. Especially not when the idea behind the stew is fast and easy. Kind of defeats the purpose.
So this stew ended up being made with kale instead. Since I love kale. I mean, I love it with all of my heart. It's perhaps my favorite green in the whole wide world. And in my opinion, you cannot beat the deep, jewel-like green of the kale simmering away in this soup. If you were ambitious, you could use dried beans soaked overnight and cooked. In all honesty, dried beans are so far superior to the canned kind that they really should be used when possible. But come on, this is the real world here, and if someone judges you for using canned beans, they need to find a more interesting hobby. Like running all over the city looking for escarole.
Kale, Sausage and White Bean Stew
Adopted from The Gourmet Cookbook (the yellow one)
Oil for the pan
1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot, whichever kind you like, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large cloves of garlic, passed through a press
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less depending on how you're feeling about it
1 bunch kale, the leaves broken into 2-inch peaces and removed from the tough center ribs
3 cups cooked or canned white beans (great northern, navy etc). If you use canned, please rinse them. That goopy canned stuff is gross.
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and extra for serving
2 medium tomatoes, diced (don't bother skinning)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. The oil should shimmer when it moves around the pan, but not be at the point of smoking. Add the sausage and brown on all sides for 7 - 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to cook and stir under the garlic and softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add the kale and stir until it's wilted, about 2 more minutes. Add the beans, keep on stirring, and cooking for 1 more minute.
Add the stock and bring the liquid to a gentle boil. Next stir in the butter, cheese, tomatoes and half of the parsley until the butter is melted and everything is heated. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and the rest of the parsley.