Cynthia Shea is too nice to be compared to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, but her soul-warming elixirs rank right up there with the best. Shea, a CIA grad and San Francisco transplant, opened Soup's On (842 W. 36th St., 410-235-9801) in a cozy Hampden row house two years ago. While she moved to the East Coast to be closer to her family, she's found her cooking niche in Baltimore. "I make things I didn't learn as soup into soup," she says.
"I take an entrée and adapt the recipe into soup." She loves experimenting with seasonal produce that customers may not have tried. "Kale is one of the things people ask me for," says Shea, who serves the Tuscan soup at the cafe during the winter months. She keeps her menu small—three or four soups and salads and one sandwich. "I'd rather do six things perfect than 25 things mediocre," she says.
Tuscan Kale Soup with Prosciutto and Poached Egg
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 yellow onions, medium dice
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 anchovy fillet
Big pinch red pepper flakes
3 bunches kale, preferably lacinato/dino, stemmed and finely chopped
1 prosciutto end (see note)
3 quarts homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 chunk Parmesan cheese, cut into shards (see note)
Heat olive oil in large stockpot and add onions, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until onions begin to soften. Add garlic, anchovy fillet, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring for 10-15 more minutes until completely soft.
Reduce heat and add chopped kale and prosciutto end; stir and cover. Cook, stirring frequently for about 25-35 minutes (time will vary, depending on the kale) until kale is very soft and tender.
When kale is soft, remove prosciutto, add stock and bring to a boil. Dice prosciutto and add back to pot. Simmer until heated through. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired.
To poach eggs, bring a pan of water to a boil, add eggs and poach for 3 minutes. Eggs yield best result in soup when whites are completely cooked, and yoke is runny.
Serve soup in warm bowls, top with one poached egg for each serving, and garnish with Parmesan cheese "shards."
Note: Prosciutto ends are usually available where fresh sliced prosciutto is sold. For Parmesan "shards," use a vegetable peeler, not a grater, to slice thin ribbons from a chunk of Parmesan.