Back in January, a recipe for “Italian Chicken Sausage and Artichoke Soup with Chard” in Sunset magazine caught my interest. Over the past months I’ve added onion, garlic, fennel seed, and red chile flake to the original recipe. And sometimes substitute kale for chard. My procedure is quick and easy, and the synergistic result far exceeds the expectation of boxed chicken broth and canned artichoke hearts.
In less than a half hour, this soup is on the table. I’ve served it as an everyday meal, as a starter to a rustic dinner topped with ricotta salata, and as an elegant first course. This year my Thanksgiving menu has a lighter aura, so this Tuscan Kale Soup will replace the heavier puréed soups of the past.
Tuscan Kale Soup with Artichoke & Chicken Sausage Recipe
Start with about a pound of fresh chicken sausage. Remove sausage from casings and crumble into bite-sized pieces. Brown it in a small amount of olive oil. The fresh chicken sausage in the meat department of Whole Foods is terrific for this soup.
While the chicken is browning, coarsely crush 1 t. fennel seeds in a mortar with pestle.
Then in a large soup pot, sauté 1/2 c. diced yellow onion in about 3 T. olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add 4 minced garlic cloves, fennel seed, and 1 t. red chile flakes. Sauté for another minute or two.
Add 2 qt. of good chicken broth to the pot. We like Whole Foods 365 Organic Chicken Broth, which comes in 1 quart boxes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Meanwhile rinse two cans of artichoke hearts in cool water. Drain and squeeze our excess moisture. Cut in half lengthwise, removing any tough outer leaves if necessary. Add artichoke hearts and browned chicken sausage to the soup. Simmer for ten minutes.
Remove the center rib from washed Tuscan kale, tear the leaves into thirds. Add the kale to the soup, and simmer, covered, until the kale is wilted and tender. Season with sea salt to taste. Serve with toasted ciabatta brushed with olive oil and grated cheese, ricotta salata or Parmesan, on the side.