Are you dreaming of tomatoes yet? I am. Tomatoes and sweet corn and fresh okra … okay, I’ll stop there before you want to kill me. In the southeast we benefit from a long growing season but even so, during the colder months I often find myself dreaming of summer produce and long, warm days.
I am, however, a firm believer in appreciating things in their proper time (or, you know, trying to) and one good thing about January is having an excuse to eat this soup. It’s a bit decadent, I will grant you, but if you can’t have tomatoes, you should definitely treat yourself to a warm bowl of this comforting and flavorful goodness. It’s perfect for a weekend night in with a book or some relaxing company.
Local Beer and Cheese Soup
At this point, if you are using bacon or sausage, add the meat and cook until it is browned, then drain any excess fat from the pan.
Add the mustard, oregano and Worcestershire to the pan along with the potatoes. Stir well, then slowly pour over the stock. Season well with salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the potatoes are starting to become tender but still retain their shape. Stir in the beer and continue to simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and flour or arrowroot until no lumps remain. Slowly pour this mixture into the soup and stir until thoroughly combined.
When the soup is hot and simmering again slowly stir in the cheese, adding in one handful at a time. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve in a deep bowl, suitable for cupping your hands around.
With the cold and unpredictable weather we’ve been experiencing, I’m in the mood for comfort food. This meal is hearty and easily adapts to suit carnivores, vegans or gluten-free eaters. The variety of tastes textures in this bowl make it pleasing to eat–there’s crunch from the kale stems (never throw those away!), sharpness from the pickled shallots, the wheat berries are nutty and chewy, the sweet potato is rich and sweet … I love a meal with a lot of interesting things happening for all the senses.
Spicy Kale and Sweet Potato Bowl
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the shallots with vinegar and allow to steep.
In a large skillet or saute pan, add the garlic and a tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan while cold. Turn the heat to medium and when the oil is shimmering and the garlic fragrant, add the onions. When the onions begin to soften, at the sweet potatoes and cook until soft and browning on the edges.
Meanwhile, cut your kale leaves into very thin ribbons and slice the stems into 1/4″ rounds.
Remove the cooked sweet potato from the pan and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is browned and then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Increase the heat and add the kale stems and leaves, stirring frequently, until the greens have intensified in color, the leaves are a bit wilted but the stems still retain crunch.
Divide the cooked wheat berries into bowls and layer with the sweet potato, kale and sausage. Top with your favorite hot sauce and the pickled shallots.
Make it vegan: Simply omit the sausage and increase the sweet potatoes by one half.
Make it gluten free: Substitute steamed rice or quinoa for the wheat berries.