Healthy, hardy soup packed with kale, tomatoes, and white beans to give you comfort on a cold day.
Last night we went to a party to celebrate a milestone birthday of a good friend. He was turning 60 and his wife threw a party at a local restaurant. Forty of us showed up for the feast, fun, and laughter; and something more.
While we sipped wine and noshed on crabcakes, a nearby screen flashed photos of his childhood, wedding day, their two smiling children in various stages of growing up, and travels to all corners of the earth. Scenes from Antarctica, Nepal, Argentina, New Zealand and Mount Kilimanjaro spilled into the room, along with photos from the many marathons/triathlons/ironmans/century bike rides the host has participated in. Many of our photos were up there too, part of his extended family.
As one by one, people stood up after dinner to share a story about him (our admission ticket of sorts), I began to reflect on what makes a life well-lived.
Work that fulfills us, and fills our days with meaningful labor surely goes in the ‘plus’ column.
Making enough money to give our loved ones, and ourselves, the lifestyle we want is usually high on the list too.
But in the frenzy of life, it’s easy to forget that it’s so much more than that.
What I witnessed last night was the bountiful yield reaped from a lifetime of emotional investing: in creating a strong marriage with his wonderful wife, who I’m happy to call a close friend; in raising two happy, emotionally and physically healthy adult children who stood up to share with us how much they love him; and a roomful of friends who know they can call on him (or his wife) day or night if they need someone.
This wasn’t an epiphany – it’s something we all know, and I think, try to do as best we can. Some days we do a lot better than other days, and I’m sure that’s true for him too.
I’m married to someone who has also lived a well-lived and emotionally generous life, as evidenced by his strong relationship with his step-children, our grandchildren, friends, and colleagues. It strikes me that anyone who finds a life partner, raises children, or has a close-knit extended family, is served up opportunities for this emotional investment. But for me, an only child of two parents who weren’t particularly family oriented by their own admission, with a very small extended family I only got to know as an adult, my life has been more solitary. I have a solid circle of close friends who’ve been in my life for a very long time, who have enriched my life immensely, and to whom I hope I’ve been a good friend. But I’ve lived alone for most of my life, need a certain amount of solitude every day, and have been drawn into the deeper commitment of family later in life. So last night was a powerful reminder of the importance of emotional generosity, of investing in others without weighing out the convenience (or the lack of it). Because it is this, that in the end makes a life worth living. It is a well-lived life.
This has been my go-to soup for the last few months. Like a well-lived life, it makes me feel good; all nice and warm inside. I hope it makes you feel the same way.
Smoky Kale and White Bean Soup
- 6 slices bacon cut into lardons (optional)
- 2 medium yellow onions diced
- 6 stalks celery sliced horizontally
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 large twigs of thyme
- 2 dried chipotle peppers optional
- 2 cups white wine
- 1/4 cup 4 tablespoons harissa (or make your own!)
- 3 cups cooked white navy beans with 1 cup of cooking liquid
- 4 cups vegetable broth including the reserved 1 cup of cooking liquid from the beans
- 1 28- ounce can diced tomatoes I only use San Marzano tomatoes in a can - it's worth the extra money IMHO
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
- 4 - 6 cups kale deveined, and sliced in thick slices (I use Dinosaur / Lacinato kale for this soup)
- Parmesan cheese
- Day-old or fresh bread for croutons
- Olive oil
- garlic powder
- Add the bacon lardons to a large soup pot over medium heat, and sauté until crispy.
- Add the diced onion and celery slices, and sauté until just tender. Add the garlic, dried rosemary, and fresh thyme and continue to sauté for an additional two minutes.
- Add the dried chipotle peppers and wine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the harissa (a spicy Moroccan condiment available in most specialty stores), the cooked beans, broth, and diced tomatoes, and simmer for 2 hours at a low simmer. This concentrates the flavors beautifully.
- Season with salt and pepper, and add the kale just before serving. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a handful of garlic croutons.
- To make the garlic croutons, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice up day-old or fresh bread into cubes. Toss in olive oil and garlic powder - enough to lightly coat them, and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly crisped. The croutons can be stored in a plastic bag for one week in the refrigerator, or frozen for two months in the freezer.