Recipe: Kale and Apple Soup

Most two year-olds won't eat a plateful of sautéed greens even if they're cooked in bacon, and Ursula &mdash an excellent eater most of the time — is no exception. I can usually get by with whipping some into scrambled eggs, but this week, after a week of rice, beans and MSG in Costa Rica, I put us all on a heavy dose of green matter. Thus, this kale soup was born.To counter the bitterness of the kale, I cooked some bits of apple with a sweet onion and whizzed that into the soup at the end.

This version gets a little naughty with pancetta and a dollop of crème frîache, but you can lighten it up by omitting the pancetta (use 2 tablespoons of olive oil instead to cook the greens) and swapping out the crème frîache for yogurt. Vegetarians use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and skip the pancetta. To make it vegan-friendly, also take out the swirl of creamy matter at the end.

Kale Soup

serves 4

1/4 cup cubed pancetta
1 large bunch kale
4 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup crème frîache, mascarpone cheese, or plain yogurt
freshly ground black pepper

Wash the kale and remove the bottom 1" of stem. Chop roughly into 1" pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sautée the pancetta for 1 minute or until just barely showing color. Add the kale and stir to coat with rendered fat. Add a glug or olive oil if pancetta didn't render much fat and kale sticks to pan. Cook, stirring, until kale begins to wilt. Add 2 cups chicken stock, lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Transfer mixture to blender, reserving some as a second batch if blender jar is more than 1/2 full.

In the same skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and cook onions with salt until just barely showing color. Add chopped apples and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until apples soften and onions are translucent.

Transfer mixture to blender, reserving half if you reserved half of the kale mixture earlier.

If working in two batches, add half the remaining chicken stock (1 cup), cover and puree until smooth. If working in one batch, add all the remaining stock and puree until smooth. When working with hot liquids in a blender, it's wise to hold down the lid with a kitchen towel in case some liquid escapes when the motor is engaged.

If soup seems too thick, add more stock is available, or water until it reaches the desired consistency.

Garnish with a dollop of crème frîache, mascarpone cheese, or plain yogurt and a few grinds of black pepper.

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