Three winning ingredients called out to me from this recipe: the “Shrimp, Kale and Cannellini Bean Casserole,” from The Perfect Pantry. And the panko crumbs and grated parmesan promised a crispy topping. Easy enough to assemble, this casserole lacked the punch that I needed to enjoy it fully. What was missing? A sauce, perhaps?

I replaced the white wine with dry vermouth. I used beautiful purple kale in this dish. But combined with the shrimp, my casserole tasted too bitter. I needed more salt. I needed a tomato sauce. If you make this one, make it saucy, and tell me what happens.

I had much more success with the “Leek Soup with Dill Oil,” from 101 Cookbooks. This vegetarian soup had the right amounts of butter, vegetable broth, toasted almonds (I used marcona), and grated gruyère cheese to make it taste fantastic. Once again, a short list of quality ingredients made this happen. My reliable immersion blender made this soup smooth and easy.

I halved the amounts of this recipe, to make 4-5 servings. I was so satisfied to purée half a bunch of fresh dill with 4 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in the food processor. This dill oil was a magical mixture that enriched the flavor of the soup. I sauteed my sliced leeks and potato slowly, as instructed. Stunningly simple, this soup. Enjoy it.

PRICES
Canned Cannellini Beans (15 oz.) = $1.68
Frozen Shrimp (1 lb.) = $14.92
Purple Kale (1 head) = $2.22
Leeks (1 lb. 12 oz.) = $3.63
Yukon Gold Potato (1) = .48¢

RECIPES: the casserole needs a sauce, the soup needs nothing (just a spoon!)
PREP TIMES:
both the casserole and the soup each need less than an hour of prep and cooking
TASTES:
bitter kale and shrimp need some saucy smoothness to satisfy, while sweet leeks and potato are bolstered by meaty almonds, gruyère cheese and dill oil

My next meal will be the “Baked Cod Casserole,” from the February/March 2006 issue of Eating Well, with the “Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad,” from The Taste Space. Come back to my site soon, to see my food.