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Poor Girl Gourmet
by Amy McCoy
Serves 8


• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 4 cups vegetable broth, plus more to thin the soup as needed
• 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes such as Muir Glen, or regular crushed tomatoes
• 3 celery stalks, sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into 1/4 pieces
• 4 large kale leaves, stemmed, washed well, coarsely chopped
• 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, including liquid
• 1 cup diminutive pasta, such as orzo, ditalini, or pastina
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme and crushed red pepper flakes, stir, and cook for 1 minute, then add the broth and the tomatoes, and stir once more to combine.

2. Stir in the celery and kale, then the beans and their liquid, and then the pasta. Cook over medium heat until the pasta is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in a bit more broth if the soup becomes too thick—you probably will need more if you have the soup as leftovers, as the pasta will absorb liquid while it sits.

ESTIMATED COST FOR FOUR: $5.09. The olive oil costs 36¢, the onion 33¢. The garlic is estimated at 10¢ for 2 cloves from a 50¢ head of garlic. The thyme is 18¢, and the crushed red pepper flakes are 3¢. The tomatoes were $2.99, though I have to tell you that I never buy them when they are not on sale, and when they are on sale, they cost $2.00. The vegetable broth should be Vegetable Scrap Stock, but for the purpose of our estimating here, we use the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand at $2.39 for 4 cups. The celery is around 60¢ for 3 ribs out of a bunch that costs $1.99. The kale was $2.49 for the bunch; this recipe uses less than half a bunch, but we'll still call it $1.25. The beans are 99¢ for one can. The pasta is about half of a 1 -pound box that costs $1.99, so $1.00 for that. The soup costs $10.27 for eight hearty servings, or just over $1.29 per serving.

Add a few toasted slices of bread brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic for a spicy and satisfying accompaniment, at an additional cost of approximately $1.99, figuring that a bakery loaf of country bread can be had for $3.39. You won't need more than half of that, though, and I highly recommend that you shop the bakery's day-old rack as it is prudent and a nice loaf of bread will then cost you half of its regular price. A drizzle of everyday olive oil is no more than 24¢, and the one clove of garlic from a 50¢ head is 5¢.

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