Saturday, September 18, 2010

Creamy Kale Soup with Curried Zucchini Croquettes

My garden surprised me. We had planted lots of tomatoes (which still have mostly green ones on them because of our cold summer), basil, oregano, mint (three varieties - you'd think I'd have more mint recipes on here!), and two boxes of strawberries (which did very, very well). We ended up leaving three and a half of the many, many boxes we have completely empty. To my great surprise, one day I was out picking strawberries when I noticed one of the now weed-filled boxes had not one, not two, but three! mystery zucchini/squash plants growing in them. I have no idea where they came from or why, but I sure was glad to see all the beautiful blossoms opening their shining faces to the missing sun. They were going to produce and they were working hard at it.

My roommate took one small squash out of the garden - the first - and I waited for the second to arrive. I had sort of forgotten about them when I suddenly remembered and went to check on them. (Thank goodness the boxes are on a watering system or they would have been screaming for some aqua.) To my great surprise, the tiny squash had grown to almost two feet! With a bit of concern that it wouldn't be all that flavorful because of its size, the squash has proved me wrong. It's fabulous! I've made these wonderful croquettes a couple of times (hint: they are just as awesome with Italian spices) and I still have half a squash left. I don't really know if it's a squash or a zucchini, but I don't really care all that much. I am just grateful for my mystery plants! Now, if we could only get a little more sun, my last few babies out there will grow into something bigger and better.

On top of that, my wonderful neighbor gave me a lovely bunch of curly green kale, some Italian kale and a few bunches of beet greens. I love beet greens and I even put the Italian kale into a smoothie, but what was I going to do with the green kale? To be honest, I wasn't even sure I had ever had green kale before and I had to taste it first to make sure I was going to like it. I did! It actually tasted quite a bit like broccoli, but with all sorts of leafy green benefits. I was super excited! What to do, what to do?

My first thought was to make a sauce to go over the top of the croquettes. I like to experiment with raw sauces and smoothies, so I thought, why not? I added the green kale to the Vitamix with some water and hempmilk. I wanted to see what it would come out to be and then add some spices to the mix. After pulling the kale back out and chopping it finer (let's just say, I'm getting my fiber today) and adding more water, I pureed it with success. The result was a brilliant green puree with a little bit too much of an earthy flavor for me. It needed to be cooked. 

Still bent on making a sauce (the soup idea didn't occur to me until a little later), I added some onions and oil to a pot and started the saute process. I added the kale mixture, some leftover raw sweet potato, and some hempmilk. As it cooked along, smelling like broccoli the entire time, I realized that with all the kale in there, it was either going to be a very thick sauce or I was going to have a lot of it. A lot. Somewhere about that time the soup idea hit. I tasted the beautiful green mixture and just knew it had to be soup. I was so excited! I don't know that I've ever even made my own cream of broccoli soup before, but that is pretty much what it came to be. And it warmed me, inside and out. Oh, yes. I was enchanted by my interesting experiment.

You know, sometimes experiments go terribly awry. But this one was so fantastic; I felt like I was onto some hidden discovery (not that anyone hasn't ever made cream of kale soup before. I know. That's not new. Neither is cream of broccoli. Not even remotely new!), but to me, this was a wonderful discovery and it became a very delicious meal. I hadn't even gotten to making the croquettes yet. So, to all of you kitchen experimenters, take heart. For every failure you have, there will be at least an equal amount of wonderful, surprise successes. And maybe even a mystery garden plant or two. :)

Happy eating, everybody!

P.S. I decided not to call this Cream of Kale soup because it's not. There's not cream in it at all. I only use cream sparingly, on occasion, as my body is not a huge fan, but I can guarantee you will not miss it one iota in this recipe. It's delicious, nutritious, and healthy. And sort of counteracts the partially fried croquettes. It's all about balance, right?Enjoy! 

Creamy Kale Soup

This creamy soup tastes a lot like cream of broccoli with a whole lot less fat, but so much flavor! The kale in this can be substituted with broccoli in equal portions, if you prefer, or even try beet greens or Italian kale.

Serves 2 - 4

1 bunch green kale (curly kale)

½ raw sweet potato

1 cup water

¼ onion, diced

2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil

4 cups hempmilk or milk of choice, divided

2 tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt, or to taste

¼ tsp paprika

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp garlic powder

6 tbsp millet flour

Clean kale and chop into large pieces, including stems. Chop sweet potato into large pieces, as well, leaving on skin. In a powerful blender, Vitamix or food processor, puree kale and sweet potato with the water using some of the milk, if necessary. Puree to desired consistency. I like to leave some chunks for texture, but puree smooth if you prefer that.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add onion and a small pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add kale puree, 2 cups of the milk, basil, salt, paprika, bay leaves, and garlic powder. Mix to combine and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until kale and potato have softened, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix the remainder of the milk and the millet flour together until fully combined. Once kale and sweet potato are fully cooked and liquid has reduced some, remove bay leaves. Add the millet flour/milk mixture and stir until the soup has thickened. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Soup will thicken a little more. Serve warm with bread, crostini or Curried Zucchini Croquettes.

Curried Zucchini Croquettes

These croquettes are soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They are best made with a large or extra-large zucchini or summer squash, around 3 inches or more in diameter. If you can’t find any that big, buy smaller ones and make smaller croquettes. They’ll be just as good. These are great served with a little marinara sauce or alongside a bowl of Creamy Kale Soup.

Makes 20 or more

1 extra-large zucchini or squash with a diameter of 3 inches or more

1 cup millet flour or brown rice flour

2 eggs

½ cup quinoa flakes

½ cup rice breadcrumbs (Orgran) or any gluten-free breadcrumbs of choice

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp dried chives

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp dried basil

Pinch of sea salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

Grapeseed oil for pan-frying

Slice zucchini or squash into ½-inch rounds and toss with a little bit of sea salt (degorging) to remove any potential bitterness. Let sit for 10 – 20 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.

Place three shallow medium bowls on the counter. In one bowl, place the millet or brown rice flour. In another, whisk the two eggs with a small amount of water until fully combined. In the third bowl, mix together the quinoa flakes, breadcrumbs, curry, chives, ginger, basil, sea salt and cayenne.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 – 3 tbsp of grapeseed oil. While the oil is heating, dredge a slice of the zucchini or squash in the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the hot oil and repeating dredging with one or two more slices, filling the pan, but not crowding the croquettes. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then flip, cooking remaining side, another two or more minutes. Adjust heat, if necessary. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate. Keep warm until ready to serve. Repeat dredging steps with remaining zucchini, adding more oil to the pan as necessary.

Serve warm with sauce, alongside a soup, or as they are!

Croquettes with Italian Seasonings


  1. JUST tried this soup for dinner tonight and it was wonderful! I used a whole sweet potato (family loves it) and subbed leeks for the onion. Almond milk was used, also. I'll be sure to make this soup again!

    1. I'm glad your family enjoyed it! It's a favorite of mine and I love subbing out other things to play with the flavors. Happy eating!