Just a couple days ago, we were sitting pool-side in short sleeves and shades on a mini vacation in Austin. It was a crazy-humid 100 degrees outside, bathing suits and sunscreen were a must and it couldn't have felt more like mid-summer.
And now, back in our Seattle reality, there's a large pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove. Socks are beginning to make their way out of drawers to fight the nightly chill like darned superheroes and the backyard is relentless in showing us just how many leaves we'll be cleaning up come Saturday morning.
But regardless of a little extra layering (and raking), I wouldn't trade Seattle's romantic fall for all of the sunshine in the world. I love seeing the giant pumpkins from nearby farms pop up at our local market, putting on my favorite wool coat for autumn neighborhood walks and harvesting the last of our garden's root veggies for roasting, along with making many of our favorite fall and winter "warm" meals.
Austin may have its endless bounty of Tex-Mex dishes and deliciously dangerous Southern comfort foods to offer, but, as a Seattleite who's well aware of the changing of the seasons, my definition of comfort food varies quite some bit.
This veggie, sausage and kale soup happens to be one of our family's favorite Northwest fall and winter meals. It's one that I make almost weekly and that we eat even more regularly as leftovers for lunch. I made this soup up, though it's similar to many Italian bean and kale soups. I like to think of it as an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" meal, where you can pretty much throw in any veggies handy from the fridge or garden, add some stock and you're good to go for an easy weeknight dinner.
And besides the fact that this soup can be tailored to fit any family's needs -- whether you're veggie-friendly, picky eater-inclined or gluten-free -- it's chock-full of healthy goodies that everyone will love.
Veggie Soup with Chicken Sausage and Kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 pound sausage, quartered (we use Aidells sun-dried tomato chicken sausage)
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large zucchini, chopped
28 oz. diced or stewed tomatoes
4 oz. diced green chilies (if desired)
1 can (or 15 oz.) kidney beans
1 can (or 15 oz.) black beans
1 can (or 15 oz.) white beans (great northern, cannelini)
1 can (or 15 oz.) sweet yellow corn
1 bunch kale, chopped
Salt, pepper, fresh herbs, all to taste
Tortellini has been a popular addition in our home, making this soup more similar to a minestrone. The tortellini can be added in the last 15 minutes of the soup's simmering. But if you're planning on making extra soup for lunches, leave it out -- the tortellini can get very mushy upon reheating.
All veggies go well in this soup -- green beans, carrots, potatoes and more.
Cilantro goes well with the overall flavor, and can be thrown in at the very end to avoid wilting.
Mozzarella cheese is a good garnish choice -- but it can be as messy (and fun!) as it is tasty.
Veggie-friendly version: Simply leave out the sausage (or exchange for meatless) and use vegetable broth.
Melt a Tbsp. of butter or olive oil in the pot to coat the bottom, over medium heat. Add the sausage, onion and zucchini, and sauté for about 5-10 minutes, until cooked. Once the sausage is cooked and the onions are soft, add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, seasonings and green chilies, and bring the soup to a boil. After the soup has come to a boil, bring the temperature down to low-medium heat and let it simmer for about 30-45 minutes. While the soup is simmering, rinse your beans in the sink and combine with the corn in a bowl or colander, set aside. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces, set aside.
After the soup has finished simmering, add the kale, beans, corn and any additional seasoning needed. Cook the soup on low-medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until the kale is done to your liking. Add any garnish of your choice, such as mozzarella cheese, and serve.