Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brain Food 101

Published in The Sanford Herald December 26, 2012

Do you ever find yourself standing in the bread aisle of the grocery store with a vacant stare on your face, as you try to remember the one thing you came in to get?  Have you recently run into someone who knows your name, your dog’s name and where you went on your last vacation, while you can’t for the life of you think of their name?  Is it only in the last chapter of a good novel that you realize that you’ve actually read it before?  Then, my friends, it is time for a little brain food.  Allow me to introduce you to that clever, verdant cousin of the cabbage, kale.  I’ve added it to hearty broth and thyme-roasted vegetables until they marry into a big pot of fragrant comfort.  Get out those crossword puzzles, throw away your calculator and prepare to be sharper than ever!  At the very least, you’ll be warmer and well fed.  This is easy comfort food at its healthiest.

Thyme-Roasted Vegetable and Kale Soup
Serves 4.

5 oz. grape tomatoes (about ½ a container; if you know the difference between cherry and grape tomatoes, please enlighten me!), halved
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, halved
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves de-stemmed
2 red potatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
bunch of kale, roughly chopped
15.5 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
32 oz. container of low-sodium chicken broth (you may use vegetable broth to make this recipe vegetarian)
¼  tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 T olive oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine onion, carrots, garlic, tomatoes and thyme with olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper.  Roast in an even layer, tossing every 15 minutes, until tender and beginning to caramelize at the edges, about 30 minutes.  In the meantime, heat stock in a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper, until beginning to boil.  Add potatoes and simmer 10 minutes.  Add kale and nutmeg and simmer 5 minutes.  Nutmeg may seem like an odd addition, but any time you are cooking with a green like kale, spinach or collards, a dash of spicy-sweet nutmeg adds an interesting depth of flavor.  Add cannellini beans and simmer another 5 minutes, until they begin to fall apart.  This will thicken the soup a bit and add a decadent creamy texture.  I use cannellini beans in nearly all of my soups for this reason!  Add roasted vegetables and simmer all together another 5 minutes, adjusting salt and pepper as necessary.  A drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil on top is a great finishing to this soup, and I recommend crusty brown bread to dunk in it.  Can you feel yourself getting smarter yet?  Oh, apologies, hast thou procured a quickening of the mind and savant-like senses?

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