Springtime snow? Why, yes, if you live in New England. A storm arrived this weekend to smother the daffodils and forsythia blossoms. Forget about asparagus and pea tendrils. This is still soup weather. For inspiration, I turned to a cookbook from Maine, an even more extreme climate. People wear sweaters over their bathing suits at the beach, even in the height of summer.
The Maine Diner in Wells opened in 1983; its founder ran a diner in Boston for 30 years before that. As the official story goes, the first customer arrived by accident, driving his car into a pole in the parking lot! Since then, the diner has attracted attention from the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, NBC’s Today Show.
This recipe comes from Maine Courses, the diner’s cookbook (1996). The recipe reminds me of traditional Portuguese kale soup, though the diner’s version has more vegetables and no linguica (spicy sausage). For a vegetarian adaptation, use vegetable broth instead of beef bouillon. Add a bit of grated cheese to make it richer. No matter what, the soup’s hearty potatoes and vegetables satisfy on an unexpectedly chilly day.
The Maine Diner’s Kale-Red Potato Soup (1983)
1/4 to 1/2 stick (2 to 4 tablespoons) butter
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic (more if you like garlic!) chopped fine
6 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, with both end pieces removed
4 ounces fresh mushrooms (cut the same size as, or a bit smaller than, the onions)(optional but excellent)
1 bunch fresh kale, washed and chopped into large (mouth-size) pieces
3 Knorr beef bouillon cubes
6 to 8 medium red potatoes, parboiled but not overcooked, with skins on cut into chunks (not too large or too small)
Pepper, to taste
Dill, to taste
- In a large soup kettle, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Saute the onions and garlic over medium high heat until the onions are clear. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Add more butter and the chopped kale, a bit at a time, stirring as it wilts. You may need more butter as you go along so the kale doesn’t stick to the pot.
- Once the vegetables and kale are cooked al dente (with a bit of stiffness), place the beef bouillon cubes in heat-proof container and add boiling water to (1 cube to 2 cups water). Add 6 cups (more or less) dissolved bouillon to the soup kettle.
- Add the potatoes and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Season with pepper (bouillon already has plenty of salt), dill and additional garlic (or garlic powder) to taste. Serve with Italian or French bread slices.