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Beans and Greens Soup

Soup and cold weather go hand in hand and in the same way I like to have a salad for lunch in the summer, a big bowl of soup is my favorite winter midday meal.  I often make a huge pot of soup on Sunday and it’s usually enough for lunch for the two of us for several days, when I’ll make another kind of soup and on it goes.

I have a few favorite soups in rotation, usually alternating between a hearty lentil, black bean, or split pea soup followed by a lighter minestrone-type soup that includes one or two kinds of beans and lots of vegetables.  I rarely follow a recipe when I make soup, but prefer to let the contents of my refrigerator and pantry dictate what will go into it.

One of our go-to favorites is a spicy kale soup which I make with either white or red kidney beans.  The two ingredients that set this soup apart from other kinds of “beans and greens” soup is the inclusion of hot red pepper flakes and a generous splash of sherry.

The soup in the photograph started out as spicy kale soup — until I discovered that I was out of sherry.  (I can’t believe I let this happen, but it’s been that kind of year so far.)  To cut my losses, I added a can of diced tomatoes to round out the flavors a bit.  It turned out great and is actually a good basic “beans and greens” soup recipe that can be altered to suit what’s on hand:

(Versatile) Beans and Greens Soup

Make this soup on top of the stove or in a slow cooker and change it up using one or more of the variations listed below. For a broth use your choice of homemade or storebought or combine water with vegetable broth paste or bouillon cubes.

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt (more or less, depending on the saltiness of your broth)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups cooked white or red beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 to 8 cups chopped fresh kale or other dark greens

In a large pot or slow cooker, combine the onion, carrot, potatoes, broth, salt, basil, marjoram, and red pepper flakes (if using).  Add the cooked beans and tomatoes.
If using a pot on the stove: Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
If using a slow cooker: Cover and cook on High for 3 hours or Low for 6 hours.
For either method, stir in the kale and cook until tender, about 20 minutes longer.  Taste to adjust seasonings.


  • Omit the tomatoes; add up to 1/4 cup dry sherry.
  • Add sauteed sliced vegan sausage links just before serving.
  • Add fresh herbs to taste: fresh parsley and basil are good choices.
  • Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
  • Use chickpeas or black beans instead of white or red beans.
  • Stir in cooked pasta, brown rice, or quinoa when ready to serve (or, if not serving all of the soup at once, place some cooked pasta or grain in each bowl and ladle soup over it) 
  • Change the flavor profile by using different herbs or spices (try a berbere spice mixture, for example) 

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    Last Minute Linguine Laksa

    I usually plan my dinner menus a few days in advance, incorporating a mix of family favorites, special requests, and “testers” for my latest cookbook. But once in awhile, usually right around dinnertime, I get a craving for something that’s not on the menu. When it calls for ingredients that aren’t in the house, that’s when I get creative and search the refrigerator and pantry for “do-fer” ingredients.

    That’s how this “last minute laksa” came into being. I had no rice noodles in the house, but I had a half pound of leftover linguine. I had no lemongrass, but figured the lime would add enough citrus balance to the flavor. No bean sprouts in the fridge, but that didn’t stop me either.

    Using what was on hand, a steaming pot of fragrant spicy deliciousness was ready to serve within 30 minutes. Not exactly like you’d find it on the streets of Singapore, but so good and satisfying enough to quell those last minute laksa cravings.

    Last Minute Linguine Laksa

    If you have some bean sprouts and chopped cucumber on hand, they’re good to add to the bowls when you add the cilantro. This recipe makes enough for 2 to 3 large bowls or 4 to 6 smaller bowls of the spicy soup. (If you don’t like too much heat, cut back on the cayenne and chile paste.

    2 tablespoons canola oil
    12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup chopped onion
    5 scallions, minced
    2 teaspoons grated ginger
    1 tablespoon curry powder
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    2 teaspoons Asian chile paste
    3 cups vegetable stock
    1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
    8 ounces cooked linguine
    1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    Lime wedges

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the tofu and stir-fry until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

    Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, cover and cook for 4 minutes to soften. Add the scallions, ginger, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne. Stir in the chile paste and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes.

    Stir in the coconut milk, cooked linguine, and reserved tofu, and simmer until hot. Taste and adjust the seasonings. The amount of salt you need depends on the saltiness of your broth.

    To serve, ladle the soup into the bowls and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.