Simple Farro & Bean Soup

The sort of hearty, timeless, comforting soup that helps in times like these. The foundation ingredients are flexible and straight from the pantry - grains, canned tomatoes, beans. There’s chopping to do, which keeps the hands busy and mind focused. And if you have a lot of produce that needs to be used, a soup like this is perfect - eat some, freeze some.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup

I’m updating this soup from the archives (2010)  because it’s the sort of hearty, timeless, comforting soup that helps in times like these. I made it this afternoon and feel a bit better because of it. There’s chopping to do, which keeps the hands busy and mind focused. The foundation ingredients are flexible and straight from the pantry - grains, canned tomatoes, beans. And if you have a lot of produce that needs to be used, a soup like this is perfect - eat some, freeze some.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

I want to keep my original post here because it reminds me of how I felt cooking it for them ten years ago. // (February 23, 2010) I spent the night at my mom and dad's house last week. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but they live an hour south of San Francisco in Los Gatos. It's nice cooking in their kitchen this time of year because the view from the sink is quite beautiful. The hills surrounding their house are an electric shade of green and the old craggy-skinned oak trees are covered in moss and lichen. They say coyotes have been out recently, but when I was growing up it was mainly deer, skunk, and raccoon, (and the occasional rattle snake). I made a big pot of farro and bean stew for them - simple, hearty, and straightforward. They both went back for seconds, and I took that as a good sign.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup
The recipe below ended up being quite a departure from the recipe I photocopied, folded, and slipped into my overnight bag - regardless, I wanted to mention the book the inspiration came from - La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. I've been reading through it at night. It's the culmination of the work of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. It is an organization of thousands of members who would visit villages, towns, and farms all across Italy to document cooking techniques and ingredients - in order to preserve the culinary heritage of their country. The resulting volume is 930+ pages huge. The farro soup section has five or six recipes.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

Over the years I’m made tweaks and variations to this soup, and topped it with any number of things. Here are a couple of favorites.

Harissa & feta: We ate the soup drizzled with harissa/olive oil and a good amount of feta cheese. Highly recommended for those of you sitting on harissa. Whisk together a ratio  about 1/3 harissa paste to 2/3 olive oil. Drizzle over the top of the soup.

Cilantro-garlic: Pictured here drizzled with a cilantro-garlic olive oil. Puree the leaves and stems of a bunch of cilantro with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt, and olive oil to cover.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup
A version with heirloom beans, Savoy cabbage, and kale.

Your Bean Strategy

You have a lot of latitude here. I’ve done versions of this soup with dried beans, and canned beans. I’ve used I used Sangre de Toro beans, Rosa de Castilla , cannellini beans, and (as you see pictured here) canned chickpeas. I used Sangre de Toro beans the first time around. The second time I used Rosa de Castilla. Both were good (the pot liquor from the Sangre de Toro was intense in a good way), but the Rosa de Castilla were great - they held their shape, then melted in your mouth. Red beans are traditionally used. Canned chickpeas work wonderfully too. They’re all delicious, use what you think you might like, or what you have on hand. And remember, if you use dried beans, great! Save the bean broth and use it in combination with the water called for in the recipe for a wonderful, fully-bodied broth.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup

A Creamy Soup with No Cream

One last variation you can explore if you like. If you mash a cup of your cooked beans before adding them to the soup it results in a “creamier” broth. I skipped that step in the recipe below, opted for a more clear broth (as you can see above), but keep the idea in your back pocket.

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Simple Farro & Bean Soup

3.92 from 23 votes

As noted up above, if you use dried beans by all means use the bean broth in your soup. It’s wonderful. Use it in combination with water to equal about 9 cups. Also, you can certainly experiment with other grains here, for example, whole wheat berries, or pearled barley. Just keep in mind the non-pearled grains will take longer to cook. Brown rice could also work. And lastly...this freezes well, so you can let it cool, then bag and freeze it. I didn’t have celery the last time around, but had plenty of green onions, so I chopped a bunch up and used them. Plenty of flexibility here!

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried beans, cooked OR a 28-ounce can of chickpeas or cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped (with liquid)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 3 medium waxy new potatoes, cut 1/2-inch
  • 2 cups pearled farro
  • 5-6 big handfuls of chopped cabbage, kale, and/or greens (~1-2 heads de-stemmed)
  • Serve with any/all of the following: grated cheese, chopped olives, herby drizzle, olive oil, or a harissa drizzle
Instructions
  1. If you want a creamier broth for your soup mash 3/4 cup of the beans. I find it’s easiest to just do it with my hands, and set all the beans aside.

  2. In your largest soup pot over medium-high heat combine the olive oil, onions, celery, and salt. Sauté until the onions start to brown a bit, 7 - 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another minute or two. Add the carrot, potatoes, farro and nine cups of water. Bring to a boil and then dial back to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the farro is cooked through, 20 - 30 minutes. Be sure the vegetables are tender through as well. If you need to stir in more water or broth do so 1/2 cup at a time until the stew is the consistency you like. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

  3. Stir in the beans, bring back up to a simmer, and then stir in the kale or cabbage. Cook another few minutes until it collapses. Serve in bowls topped with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan and a generous drizzle of good olive oil (or alternately harissa oil/feta), or any of the suggested toppings.

  4. When you go to reheat leftovers you may need to add water to thin the stew out, and then readjust the seasoning.
Notes

Serves 12

Serves
12
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
 
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3.92 from 23 votes (22 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating




Comments

Hi! Love the sound of this! Could you use Freekah in place of Farro? Look forward to trying it 🙂

Isobel Turner

    Hi Isobel, you can! Love that idea.

    Heidi Swanson

I always love eating beans with soup and a bit of delicious twist. Surely, this farro and bean soup will be part of my list and will prepare it for my family, especially for my hubby. Thank you3 stars

Karen

Could you substitute quinoa in here for the farro?

Holli

    I would rather substitute pearled barley, wheat berry, or brown rice. I have added a cup or two of quinoa to the leftover soup. Thin it out a bit and re-season. Super good!

    Heidi Swanson

I love your site and have eaten many delicious dishes from it. But I’m struggling with one thing: how to know when dried beans are done?
I’ve tried both the crock pot method (which tends to give me mushy, over done-but tasty-beans) and the stove-top in a dutch oven method (which always gives me grainy-starchy beans — I’m guess that’s underdone). I usually run out of time with stove-top beans, even when I allow all afternoon to cook them and soak overnight. What to you look/smell/taste for to know that your beans are done? Thanks, Anna
HS: Hi Anna, a few thing could be going on. First off, I’d say, be sure to source beans that are as fresh as possible – you don’t want ones that have been sitting around for years. I buy a lot of beans from Steve at Rancho Gordo, but there are other sources as well. There are many different approaches to cooking them, but in short – I give them a good, long soak – overnight if possible. I think cook them in plenty of unsalted water. If you suspect you have hard water, use bottle water. Many beans cook in under an hour for me this way. I know they’re done when the texture is where I want it _ which might differ depending on how I am planning to use the beans. In short, trust your tastebuds. There’s a page on cooking beans in the back of Super Natural Cooking, and there is a primer on the Rancho Gordo site as well.

Anna

I had bought farro about a year ago and never used it. Was I happy to see your recipe. I’m cooking with the farro at this moment. I have tasted the meal so many times and I can’t wait to sit and partake. It is amazingly tasty. Oh, and the leftovers. Thanks so very much, Heidi

celia

One day I’m sure I will get to try cooking with farro. But all whole grain recipes inspire me to eat healthier–thanks.

sarah

I just tried ‘Simple Farro and Bean Stew’ and it’s going to be added to the family favorite file. I used pearl barley as Whole Foods were pricing whole grain Farro at about $10/lb. Although I had ‘Rosa de Castillo’ and ‘Sangre de Toro’ in the pantry a lapse of attention led me to use ‘Lila’: incidentally proving that Rancho Gordo can’t sell a bad bean. Wikipedia is good on the similarities and differences between Farro and Barley.

Stephen Rigden

I made it this week for dinner with Flor de Junio beans from Rancho Gordo. It was so delicious, more than the sum of its parts! We topped it with a drizzle of EVOO and parmiggiano. Thank you!

Central Coast Contessa

Just made this and it was lovely! I used pearled barley… a keeper for sure!

Liz

It isn’t that often that you see farro used as an ingredient, I love your use of farro in this recipe. The first time I tried farro was in a gourmet french restaurant. It is amazing what a versitile grain this can be. I have had farro in salad and here you have it in a stew. I am looking forward to giving your recipe a try.

Stephanie Manley

Heidi-
Could this be done in the crock pot? As a veggie I’m always trying to figure out if there are any decent recipes I can put in the crock pot.

Heidi

    Sure! I don’t see why not.

    Heidi Swanson

Whoa, if I thought the Ribollata was good I hadn’t had anything yet!!! The Farro and Bean soup was spectacular. And I ordered some beans from Rancho Gordo. Thank you again! Susan

Susan

I almost forgot–I also substituted spinach for kale and fresh tomatoes for canned.

Kristin

This makes a TON of soup!
I substituted bayo beans for the red beans and pearled barley for the farro. Turned out delicious.

Kristin Bricker

I just made this with a few variations and it is fantastic. I tossed in about 2 tbs of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a big pinch of thyme and mexican oregano. I topped it off with some mexican crema. It is really delicious. Thanks for the inspiration Heidi!

Louisa

Thank you for the reason to try farro (found it in Cleveland OH at Heinens) and another great way to use kale. This was wonderful, just what we needed to end a very snowy day.

Wendy

I’ve never cooked with farro. Definitely looks worth trying. Thank you.
Nisrine

Dinners & Dreams

I’ve never cooked with farro. Definitely looks worth trying. Thank you.
Nisrine

Dinners & Dreams

I plan on making this today! I have not found the Farro I will use pasta or barley. I hope it freezes well I would like to freeze individual portions for lunch.
HS: It freezes great! Just let the stew cool to room temperature, bag it in sandwich-size freezer bags, and you’re set.I let it thaw for a few hours before reheating, reseasoning.

Virgo2j

I get excited everytime I look at your site. I’ve actually put your link in my list of great resources for my readers, friends and family who are starting the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart. You are a gem! Thanks.

Sallie Ann

Heidi, this looks wonderful. I will make it with pearled barley since I struggle to find farro. Speaking of which, where is farro native to?? I’ve never seen it in NZ…

Joe

I am really impressed that you are able to find FARRO here. I have only seen it once, and it was at a very gourmet Italian food store.
I live in Philly now and would DIE to find good farro, or any farro for that matter!

RhodeyGirl

These look heavenly!i will be having these very soon.. thank you 🙂

cookeaze

I made this stew last night for dinner. It was really delicious! I had to substitute with red beans and pearled barley and also had to use a lot more water than you suggested. Maybe because I used pearled barley? I’m just getting the hang of cooking with dried beans, whole grains and really loving it. Thanks for all your great ideas. Love your book, looking forward to Super Natural Everyday!

val s.

I have spent a lot of time on your blog today and I just want to let you know how much I am enjoying it. I love the combination of your own recipes and those from cookbooks. I am always a little wary of buying cookbooks (so expensive) without any idea of the quality of the recipes, so it’s great to have someone sharing successful recipes from books. Thanks!

Liz

You have been an inspiration for me and changed the way I cook. I have been writing a blog and would like to share it with all of you as well. Having lived in Marin County for years I always had a great diet. Even working on the road as an audio engineer for years. Now on the east coast and am inspired by you.

Denise

I loooooove farro. This is a perfect winter dish to make for visitors, or to just have on the weekend when you get to stay indoors!

heather @ chiknpastry

I love stews at this time of the year. Yours looks delicious and simple.

tobias cooks!

This sounds like a beautiful amalgamation of hearty winter vegetables, farro and beans. I love vegetables and all the recipes which is made by vegetables.

Gourmet Free

i’ve got this soup simmering now and i can tell its going to be delicious! i did make some substitutes, based on what’s in the house-white beans from rancho gordo, crushed tomatoes, leek for the onion/celery, no potatoes and brown rice. as always, love your ideas!

michaela

Another hearty winter meal to file away to use after the summer heat has finally gone! Unfortunately, it will take a fair bit of searching here in Oz to find the different varieties of beans that seem to be so easily available in the US
Thanks, Heidi!

Amanda

You parents’ home sounds like a beautiful, peaceful place. What heart and delicious stew. I particularly like the idea of mixing in some harissa.

Cookin' Canuck

I just spotted two used copies of that book at the Russian Hill Book Store…I think I’ll skip over today and take a look (6 pages of farro soup definitely deserve a browse!)!

Michelle

Wow this looks so comforting and delicious!

Simply Life

I swear we are connected. I got your kabocha and lentil squash soup recipe the day before I taught a cooking class featuring a similar recipe and tomorrow I’m teach a class the will showcase farro and heirloom beans. Great minds think and eat alike 🙂

Jamie G. Dougherty (JAMIE|LIVING)

Heidi,
This looks lovely. And I have to say that anything with Rancho Gordo beans is fine by me. I recently made chili with Rosa de Castilla beans and it was really nice.
To answer the gluten free question above: I plan to use brown rice in place of the farro. I also want to note that Celiacs can not eat oats that are not gluten free. While normal oats might not trigger a reaction in some, others could get very sick.
Thanks for another great recipe!

Andrea

Farro?? That’s a new one for me.
Looks simple, hearty and nutritious!

Kristin

You’ve inspired me to try farro before and you’ve done it again. But why, oh why can’t I find the beautiful bean varieties you always speak of? So jealous!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

This sounds great. I’ve never cooked farro before, but have been wanting to try it.
Also, I loved your description of your parents’ house in Los Gatos, along with all the wildlife… coyotes, deer, skunk, and raccoon, and the occasional rattle snake. When you said that you made a big pot of farro and bean stew “for them”, it made me smile.

rv

I have to admit that I didn’t know what farro was, and the comments up to now didn’t exactly help me understand, but the word “pearled” helped some.
I see now, with a little searching on the net, that it is a form of wheat, called emmer. I see that “In Italy, emmer bread (pane di farro) can be found in bakeries in some areas. Emmer has been traditionally consumed in Tuscany as whole grains, in soup. Its use for making pasta is a recent response to the health food market…” (quoted from Wikipedia).
Sho Kuwamoto seems correct that farro and spelt are not identical. The Emmer wheat article above explains some of the historical confusion of the two terms as translation errors of old texts and goes into the biological distinctions.
With that in mind, it’d be interesting to have both in dry form and in cooked form too, but I wonder if added to all the other flavors in this recipe, whether each would retain their distinctiveness in texture or flavor (I just don’t have the experience to predict this outcome).

OperaJoys

mmmmmmm…looks crazy good!

Beth

Hi Heidi,
A perfect soup for this time of year; adding Harissa really gives it a lift. Along the same lines, I will often use Marash chili and then finish with a squeeze of lemon. It lends a nice blast of acidity with heat. All my best, Kathy
HS: Sounds good as always Kath, love your ideas.

Kathy Fitz

Exactly what I need for tonight’s dinner. Except the red beans..I have lentils made up already. Thanks for the inspiration!

Amanda

This came one day too late! Last night I had soaked spelt (for a change from farro) and huge scarlet runner beans, and was looking for inspiration. But in the end I just cooked them (separately) in plain water, then sauteed up what veggies I had (onion, lots of garlic, a yellow bell pepper and a couple stalks of celery) and added the beans & spelt with finely chopped kale. (It has been a revelation to me that if you chop it finely, kale needs very little if any cooking.) It was really delicious. The simple strong flavors of the beans, wheat and kale (and garlic) were inspirational. “Simple” was definitely the keyword.

Anonymous

Heidi!
I cannot wait to make this tonight (beans are soaking!) It is perfect for the recent rain-
I’ve been reading your blog for awhile- and use your cookbook often (I have found it also makes a great gift!) and just wanted to share my appreciation for your site.
Wonderful feel-good food!

Lizzy L

just what i want to be eating right now, hot and hearty, fresh and light. oh, how i love farro…

molly

Looks delish, Heidi and perfect for a rainy Manhattan evening…I’m surely going to whip this stew up tonight..perfect timing! Thank you…

The Healthy Apple

So many of my favorite ingredients in one earthy cold weather dish. I’m off to purchase ingredients missing from my larder immediately.
Miss you Pam, hope our paths cross soon. xo

Pamela Hunter

You are the only person who can make me salivate insanely despite the fact that I am currently eating lunch. This looks marvelous. I can picture having this by the fire after a long day of skiing with a nice glass of wine.
Your parent’s house sounds beautiful. Wish we could see the view out the window, too! 😉

Jenny

I always love your soups. This sounds hearty and delicious. I’m wondering – can I sub short-grain brown rice for the farro? Can’t have the farro.

Alta

Whenever I lack inspiration for what to make for dinner, I just have to surf on over here and wham! – there’s our supper.
This looks so delicious and just the ticket for a family gathered around the table on a winter evening. Thanks!

mitzimi @ the-ice-cream-maker.com

This look so hearty and delicious! It’s snowing here and this would warm me right up 🙂

Nutmeg Nanny

shockingly, i actually have everything for this at home, except the cabbage. and i think i will have to grab a knob of feta, too. i’ve been needing a little inspiration to get me through these last few weeks of winter, and this looks perfectly up to the task, especially since it looks like dc is in for yet another round of snow (ugh). cheers, and thanks again for continuing to be such a source of inspiration in my kitchen 🙂

Sarah (Braise & Butter)

shockingly, i actually have everything for this at home, except the cabbage. and i think i will have to grab a knob of feta, too. i’ve been needing a little inspiration to get me through these last few weeks of winter, and this looks perfectly up to the task, especially since it looks like dc is in for yet another round of snow (ugh). cheers, and thanks again for continuing to be such a source of inspiration in my kitchen 🙂

Sarah (Braise & Butter)

Simply perfect. I just used nearly the same list of ingredients to create a garden burger recipe (to be posted next week). When everything has been in the ground for so long, at this time of the year I have come to accept that root veggie and bean stews are the staple.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

I have been looking for a recipe like this – only yours is better than the one I had in mind, as usual 😉 Next time you are at your parents, take a picture of that view from the kitchen window. Since a lot of us spend a good part of our lives in the kitchen, the view is an important factor in picking a house! Mine looks at a gorgeous, monstrous oak tree with endless variations of wildlife using it. Enough, off to make that soup!

Holly Brown

This stew looks so good! Heidi I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, but let me just say — I love your recipes and I appreciate you posting them for all to enjoy!
I have 2 questions:
1. Instead of pearled farro, would pearled couscous work? I have a big container of that at home already. Alternatively, could I use brown rice?
2. For the beans — would pinto work okay?
I can’t wait to try this stew! 🙂
HS: Hi Libby – I’m going to vote no on the couscous, and no on the pintos :/ But the brown rice might make a nice alternative to the farro – different, but probably good nonetheless.

Libby

This sounds fantastic! I can never have enough ideas for preparing beans ‘n’ greens!
To those who want to avoid gluten, I suggest substituting groats or steel-cut oats! You can buy gluten-free oats to avoid cross-contamination, though a GF friend of mine feels comfortable using McCann’s Irish oats. I love the chewiness of the oats themselves, and the inulin they release thickens up a broth nicely!

Danielle

Thanks, Sho! But can I ask why spinach in soup leads to “disaster”? I use it often and it’s usually fine? I tried spelt berries and, as long as you can get pre-cooked ones and not have to spend hours slaving away over the stove, I think they’re a great substitute !

Rebecca

Perfect, I’ve been looking for ways to eat more kale;-) Any ideas on other grains do you think could work besides farro (I don’t eat gluten.) Btw, thanks so much for the chocolate puddle cookie recipe (also gluten-free!!)

Purslane

Sho just made this for lunch with wheat berries & chard – yum!
HS: !! I should have handed off some of my harissa oil to Sho when I saw him yesterday. Next time! Missed opportunity 😉

Jean K.

How long do you cook the beans after they have been soaked? Also, would cranberry beans work?
HS: I just cook them until they are done – it really does vary from bean to bean. Sometimes 25 minutes, sometimes an hour…These beans were quite fast to cook though, I’d say 30-ish minutes? I was chatting, so I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Elizabeth

This sounds wonderful, especially with the feta on top. I wonder if a blue or goat cheese would work just as well? I’ve never had Farro, but I’d love to try it.
Jenn

Jenn (www.j3nn.net)

Nice!! I will give it a try tonight. I ate at an indian restaurent buffet for lunch, and now I need something, to balance my calories for the day, yet hearty. This fits the bill. 🙂
Xo

Gayatri

I have never had farro before but this looks really interesting. I love a good bowl of soup or stew in the winter. Especially since we have more winter weather on the way next week.

christie @ honoring health

I do love the addition of harissa and feta in the stew. And the cookery book sounds very interesting, too. I love those kinds of books.

Maninas

Farro, any suggestions where to find it? I am trying to get our local Whole Foods to carry it, but still looking…
Hi Aimee, I bought some more this morning at Whole Foods here in SF. Double check in the bin section or in the grains that are usually located near the dried pastas. Alternately, look for wheat berries, spelt, barley – whole, semi-pearled, etc.

aimee

This does look and sound wonderful, I will definitly make it when our daughter visits next week from Boston.

Nancy K

Rebecca: apparently, spelt and farro are differet. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/magazine/30food-t-000.html?_r=1&ref=magazine)
I was going to write that you could substitute barley or wheat berries, but I notice that Heidi already did that in her post!
As for kale, I’d say look harder! I’m sure you can find it somewhere in Paris. And you could always substitute other greens, such as chard. Just don’t use spinach. Spinach in soups can lead to disaster.

Sho Kuwamoto

This looks FAB! and great for Weight Watching peeps…… thank you so much!

barbara

Heidi this looks lovely, and I really love the little snippets about your life, it makes the dish more personal and almost as if we are there with you, chopping, looking out the window too.

Alice

Bonjour Heidi! This looks delicious. However, I can’t seem to find farro anywhere in Paris where I live (or in the supermarket when I am back in the US in NJ/NY). Any ideas on where to find it? Or what might work as a good substitute? I sometimes use “épeautre” which is pretty ubiquitous here – I think the direct translation is “spelt berries” – is that the same thing or similar? Also, they don’t have kale here, I’ve been on a mission to find it all winter to no avail — any ideas for a good substitute for kale as well? This looks like a great winter comfort food. Thanks again for your fabulous, natural recipes – they are keeping me well-fed over here across the Atlantic. Bon appétit!
HS: Hi Rebecca – yes, give the spelt berries a go – they should be just fine.

Rebecca

as always heidi,
this looks simply delicious.
farro, beans, cabbage,
topped with sharp feta,
sounds like a perfect bowl of
warm, winter comfort food.
cheers!

Reginald

I have a bunch of black beans at home. Do you think this could be made with black beans?
HS: Hi Kittie, I’d vote no on black beans.

Kittie Kat

This looks so good! It’s snowing like crazy here in Vermont and this would be the perfect thing for dinner. I’ve got a bean question: I bought a bag of cranberry beans from our farmer’s market this weekend (they were so pretty!) and have no idea what do with them. I’m fairly new to bean cookery – would they work in this soup?
HS: I think cranberry beans should be good here.

Aliza

This sounds like a beautiful amalgamation of hearty winter vegetables, farro and beans.
I miss living in the bay area. Los Gatos and Saratoga have some of my favorite hang-outs.

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

hello heidi – oh los gatos is pretty! and your parents’ house sounds like lovely, so does the soup 🙂 well for now i’m trying another one of your soup recipes – the kabocha & french lentil one. you can never have too many recipes for good soups, if you ask me!

chika

simply wonderful. love the addition of the savoy cabbage and kale atop. in fact, i’d likely double the amount for my second helping.

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