Winter isn’t over yet, and the first spoonful from a steaming bowl of my 5-Bean Kale Soup is enough to warm you up. With the smokiness of ham and bacon as the backdrop for the herbs and spices, these beans are packed with soul-satisfying flavor.
Winter weather in South Louisiana is synonymous with gumbo, bisque, sauce piquante and so many other spicy one-pot classics. But when the windy March chill sets in and the temperature gauge signals the peak of another Deep South winter, I pull out a Graham family classic—a simple-yet-glorious bean soup. Yep, bean soup. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
I was born and raised in Louisiana, but there’s a Yankee connection here. I’m going out on a limb with this recipe as I trace the history of my family tree that spreads all the way back to Detroit, Michigan circa 1941. My father and mother met in an airplane factory during WW II and helped win the war building warplanes.
They survived four icy winters with countless simmering pots of bean soup. It was warm and filling, hearty and comforting, and best of all, cheap. Rationing was a mandatory part of life during those years, and most everything was in short supply, well, except beans. My family learned to love this dish and brought it back to Louisiana in 1945, and the recipe still remains a family tradition.
My 5-Bean Kale Soup is intense with smoky flavor and packed with warmth; just one bowl wraps you up like a three-layered patchwork quilt. Give it a try, and you just might warm up to this recipe, too.
- 2 strips smoked bacon, chopped
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped carrot
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- ½ pound dried white lima beans
- ½ pound dried garbanzo beans
- ½ pound dried pinto beans
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 2 (12-ounce) cans red kidney beans
- 1 (12-ounce) can black beans
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot with a heavy lid over medium-high heat, add the bacon and fry until browned. Into the rendered grease, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, and kale, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock along with the dried beans. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the ham hocks, bay leaves, and the spices and herbs. Cover the pot and let simmer until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes.
- Add the canned beans and cover and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty French bread.
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