May 10, 2017

Dear friends,

What the heck happened?! One minute we were sweating in the unseasonably warm weather and the next we were getting frost warnings. It’s May! I should be toasting hot dogs over a campfire, not cooking hearty soups!

But soup it was last week and soup it probably will be again this week, hopefully for the last time until fall. In Ohio you never know, though, so I’ll keep my recipe for white bean and sausage soup handy.

A big pot of the soup warmed up Tony and me for several meals. The dipping temperatures were all the inspiration I needed to start tossing ingredients into a pot — first onions, then garlic and sausage, then broth, tomatoes and kale. I used canned white cannellini beans and added them last to prevent them from becoming mushy.

This is a simple soup that’s quick to put together but is satisfying and boldly flavored. Let’s hope it’s the last hearty soup of spring.

SAUSAGE, WHITE BEAN AND KALE SOUP

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2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb. spicy or mild Italian sausage links, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. oregano
Salt to taste
32 oz. (4 cups) chicken broth
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled plum tomatoes with juice
5 or 6 big kale leaves, washed and torn, with tough center stem discarded
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) cannellini beans, drained

Heat oil in a hot soup kettle. Sauté onion in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic and sausage pieces and cook until edges of sausage begin to brown. Stir in salt and oregano. Add chicken broth. Chop tomatoes and add with the juice. Add kale. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add beans and simmer 30 minutes longer. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls. Makes about 8 servings.
GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week: Rhubarb compote; kale and white bean soup; mashed avocado and an easy-over egg on toast with hot sauce; orzo salad with capers, and smoked bratwurst on buns.

What I ate in restaurants last week: Hot pastrami on rye at Primo’s Deli in Akron; Subway Italian hero; chili-glazed pork belly banh mi at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; jerk pork taco, Mexican street corn and carnitas taco at Funky Truckeria in Norton; Chinese pork bun from Park to Shop in Cleveland; and smoked boneless pork ribs, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, collard greens and corn muffins at the Sunday buffet at LA Soul in Akron.

TIDBITS

The tacos I had at Funky Truckeria in Norton on Cinco de Mayo were the best I’ve tasted in Northeast Ohio. Tacos are the main (and almost only) menu item at the small but hip restaurant wedged in the far corner of Norton Plaza.

If you haven’t been to the restaurant yet, I recommend you try it. If you have, then you’re probably a fan, too, and won’t mind clicking on over to http://www.cleveland.com/best/2017/05/a_history_of_taco_tuesday_its.html#incart_highlight to vote for Funky Truckeria in a contest for best tacos in the Cleveland area. The contest ends May 15, but you can vote once an hour until then to help put Funky over the top.

THE MAILBAG

From Dennis:
If I remember correctly, Tony loves barbecue. LA Soul Restaurant, 1001 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron, has a barbecue and soul food buffet on Sundays. I work Sundays and have not been to the buffet but I have had many of the items on their menu and their food and desserts are homemade and very good. No young kids on staff and everyone is very helpful and friendly.

Dear Dennis: As you can see above, Tony and I immediately followed your suggestion and went to the Sunday buffet. The service was well-meaning but almost non-existent when we visited, but the buffet was beyond lush, and everything was indeed homemade. Great fried fish, fried and baked chicken, boneless barbecued ribs and roast beef were just the beginning. There were at least a dozen side dishes not counting salad, and I can personally recommend the collard greens, scalloped potatoes and corn muffins. The cost is $16.99 for all you can eat. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but the buffet runs to just 7:30 p.m.

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