Quality fresh ingredients prepared simply has long been the backbone of farm fresh cooking. With the gaining popularity of fast food many in the United States have veered dramatically from these roots and lost sight of where and how our food is produced. There does, however, seem to be a growing interest and resurgence as we see the promotion of “Farm to Table” within our communities. It would be an injustice to begin this discussion without mentioning one of the early pioneers of this movement, chef, restaurateur, activist and author, Alice Waters. Alice opened her world acclaimed restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971 in Berkeley, CA. It is famous for its organic, locally sourced ingredients. Waters has been cited as one of the most influential figures in food in the past 50 years and has been called the mother of American food believing that eating organic foods, free from pesticides and herbicides, is essential for both taste and the health of the environment and local communities.
She founded the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996 and created the Edible Schoolyard program promoting school lunch reform and universal access to healthy foods. Alice’s work has had a huge impact on my culinary point of view and today I am featuring two of her latest cookbooks and one of the recipes I believe exemplifies her philosophy of simple food.
The books titled The Art of Simple Food, contain more than just recipes. She includes notes, lessons, flavor profiles and inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden. I cherish these volumes in my collection and have designed a class highlighting their content that I am teaching this week. The recipe is one of the dishes we will be preparing.
Here is how it goes down.
CURLY KALE & POTATO SOUP Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
1 large bunch of kale
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced thin (I used fresh spring onions)
1 lb. potatoes, Yukon gold or Yellow Finn
4 garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of salt
6c chicken or vegetable stock
- Remove the tough stems of the kale. Wash the leaves, drain well and coarsely chop.
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, tender and slightly browned, about 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. Cut in half and cut again into ¼ – inch slices.
- When onions are cooked, stir in the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and chopped kale. Stir together and add a large pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the stock. Raise the heat to bring to boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until kale and potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary.
- Serve hot. Garnish each serving with extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Slice ½ lb. linguica, chorizo or a spicy garlic sausage. Brown in the oil before adding the onions; remove when brown. Add to the soup with the kale.
- Garnish with croutons. Cut bread into ½ -inch cubes , toss in olive oil and salt, and bake until golden brown in a 350 degree oven, about 12 minutes.
- Add ½ c cooked white beans 10 minutes before soup is finished.
I admit when I first decided to make this soup I feared it would not have much flavor as the only seasoning was salt and figured I would have to doctor it with additional flavor enhancements. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The garlic and onion add depth while the potatoes and kale contribute creaminess and texture. I recommend using a rich good quality stock as it serves as the foundation. Another favorite Waters recipe of mine is a parsley salad recipe I featured on my blog. Check it out. It is a great way to take advantage of that abundance of parsley growing in your herb garden soon (I hope).
For years I have preached that the quality and freshness of your ingredients have a direct effect on the outcome of your dish. I totally agree with Alice when she says, “Food tastes naturally delicious when it has been grown with care, harvested at the right moment and brought to us immediately, directly from the producer.” I might mention, the thaw has begun and we are getting closer to farmer’s market season every day. I cannot wait.
It has long been my belief that the principles and essence of good cooking have less to do with recipes and techniques than they do with gathering good ingredients and cooking from the heart. So keep it simple, make it fresh and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time. Sending spring love your way, until next time. Jeanne