In the early nineties, I went on a weeklong press trip to Spain. Other than learning everything there is to know about olive oil—the stated purpose of our trip—all we did for a week was eat ourselves silly and drink many bottles of beautiful Spanish wine. Not surprisingly, I fell in love with Spanish cuisine. Based on impeccably fresh ingredients, it is gutsy, flavorful, and simple. Here is a soup to warm the last weeks of winter.
1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern, rinsed and picked over
8 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf, preferably Turkish
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch of saffron threads
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Spanish chorizo sausages, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 small bunch kale, about 3/4 pound, tough stems removed, washed well, and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to tasteSherry vinegar to taste
Place the beans in a large pot or soup kettle. Pour in 8 cups of the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook, partially covered, stirring often and adjusting the heat to keep it at a slow steady simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Add the onion; reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the red pepper and the paprika. Cook for 2 minutes longer, then transfer the contents of the skillet to the bean pot. Stir in the saffron with the soaking liquid, the chorizo, and the kale. Bring back to a simmer and cook just until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar, and serve hot in warmed soup bowls.