On one of those days in The Perfect Pantry kitchen, with recipe testing in the slow cooker, on the stove top, and in the oven, despite my careful planning I had a few cups of chopped kale left and no plan for it. A quick search in the refrigerator unearthed some bacon (always good with dark leafy greens) and shredded cheese, and just like that, this kale soup with bacon and cheese was born. Broccoli or broccoli rabe would be equally good, though I especially liked the combination of the slightly bitter kale with the salty bacon. This hearty make-ahead-and-freeze soup, with puff pastry croutons, cooks in less than half an hour.
4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups finely chopped kale (or broccoli)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 qt (4 cups) chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I use low-fat six-cheese Italian blend)
1/4 cup half-and-half (not fat-free)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted according to package directions
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, cook the bacon over low-medium heat until the bacon is brown but not crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.
Add the onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the kale and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, until the kale wilts slightly. Pour in the chicken stock.
Bring the soup to the boil over high heat; then, reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured countertop, and cut with a sharp knife into 1-1/2 inch squares. Place the pastry squares on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes, until lightly crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or puree in batches in a stand blender, and return the soup to the pot. Stir in the cheese and half-and-half, and continue cooking over low heat for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese melts.
Chop the bacon and return it to the pot. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.
Serve hot, garnished with the puff pastry croutons, or allow to cool completely and freeze in airtight containers.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Salmon and green vegetable soup
Kale, mushroom and caramelized onion breakfast casserole
Vegan red curry tofu with kale and brown rice
Smashed potato and leek soup with bacon and thyme
Kale salad with mushrooms and mustard vinaigrette
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Portuguese kale soup, from Soup Chick
Turkey, kale and butternut squash soup, from Soup Chick
Chicken and kale soup, from House of Annie
North African chickpea and kale soup, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Roasted potato leek soup with kale, from Not Eating Out in New York
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