image: James Stefiuk
For the soup
- 1 lb. dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini or navy)
- 2 onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 2 quarts water
- 1 3-by-2-inch piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- 2 tsps. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 lb. smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
- 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
- 1 lb. kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
>For grilled cheese sandwiches
- 4 slices sourdough or preferred bread
- 6 slices of your favorite melting cheese
- 2+ Tablespoons salted butter
Heat in a pot, cover beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, for 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse. Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart of water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
While soup is simmering, brown sausage in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage and remaining quart of water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
To make the grilled cheese, heat 1 Tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Place two cheese slices between two slices of bread. Press together to form a sandwich and place in the skillet. Cook until golden on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, adding more butter to the pan if needed, and cook until the other side is golden and the cheese melts, 3 to 5 more minutes. Repeat for the second sandwich. Serve with soup.
Note: This soup is best if made 1 or 2 days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered. Thin with water if necessary.