From October through March, all my family wants to eat is soup at every meal. We have several favorites, and this is one of them. I love its smoky flavor and that it's packed with protein from chicken stock and hearty beans. Serve a piping hot bowl with some crusty bread and a bright side salad for the ultimate cozy, comforting meal at lunch or dinner. Like all soups, the flavors come together even more the longer it sits, so I make it in big batches to eat through the week or freeze. It tastes even better the next day.
Technique tip: You can make the beans through step 1 in advance, or just soak them in room temperature water overnight, then cook the soup the next day.
Swap option: This soup is very versatile and can easily be made with spinach or Swiss chard instead of kale, and cranberry beans or chickpeas instead of white beans. To make this a vegetarian soup, simply leave out the kielbasa and skip step 2 or add a teaspoon of smoked paprika when cooking out the vegetables in step 3. You can also substitute with your favorite smoky meat substitute like a few veggie bacon strips. If you can't find kielbasa, you can use roughly chopped bacon or turkey bacon in the same way.
In a large pot, cover beans with 2 inches of water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour, then drain and rinse.2.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy, wide pot, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add kielbasa and cook, turning occasionally, until golden-brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.3.
Wipe out the pot, then add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil, celery and onion; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add beans, broth, cheese rind, bay leaf and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cook uncovered until beans are tender, about 1 hour.4.
Remove and discard cheese rind and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, then add kielbasa, kale and water to just cover, if necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is just tender, 12-15 minutes more.5.
Remove from the heat; stir in the lemon juice, then adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with the grated cheese.