Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meatless Monday & Unprocessed: Zuppa di Verdura & Ribollita

Years ago I was given a cookbook, The Flavors of Tuscany from a friend I has studied with in Florence with who was as much of a foodie as me.  One thing we both really enjoyed during our time was Ribollita which translated means re-boiled.  To the uninitiated that doesn't sound like much, but to those with a love of Tuscan fare as I do, it makes you swoon.  It brings to mind a thick and hearty vegetable and bread soups with gorgeous ribbons of cavolo nero.  Cut to last week when I was at the farmer's market, Zephyr Farms had gorgeous organic black kale.  Now gorgeous and kale are not two words I generally would put in the same sentence.  I am the first to admit, I'm so not a kale person.  While I love the idea of it, the look of it when it's fresh, I've just not been able to get over the flavor.  But when I saw the kale (or cavolo nero) at the market I was instantly reminded that the only time I have enjoyed it was when I was in Florence eating Ribollita.  At that moment I realized I had no other choice but to finally after more than 10 years attempt Ribollita.

The thing about Ribollita is that each person or restaurant's is just a bit different from the next.  The reason it is called reboiled is that you take leftover vegetable soup, "reboil" it on the stove and layer it with stale bread rubbed with garlic.  If you don't have stale bread just toast it up to get it all crispy, rub the cut side of a clove of garlic on the bread and let it soak up the delicious veggie soup.    Each ribollita is different because each person's vegetable soup  is made differently.  I went with the Flavors of Tuscany Zuppa di Verdura as everything I've ever made from this book has been a perfect reminder of my time in Tuscany.

Vegetable Soup - Zuppa di Verdura
adapted from The Flavors of Tuscany

3 cups cooked beans plus 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid
2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 medium  onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 leek, cleaned and finely sliced
1 cup canned tomatoes with juice - coarsely chopped
boiling water
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch green chard, stalks removed and finely sliced
1 bunch cavolo nero or black kale, stalks removed and finely sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1.  Drain the cooked beans, reserving the liquid. Set aside one cup of beans and puree the rest with the cooking liquid.
2. In a heavy soup pot (I used my Le Creuset French Oven) heat the oil.  Add onion, garlic, celery carrots, and leek.  Saute stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft and slightly translucent but not brown.
3.  Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice.  Stir in the potatoes and add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Add salt & pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes or just until the potatoes start to soften.
4. Add the chard and kale (you should have 4-5 cups of greens), bean puree, whole beans and thyme.  Stir to combine.
5.  Lower the heat to low and cook, covered, at a bare simmer for 30 minutes to an hour or until all the vegetable are very soft. Add boiling water as necessary to keep the bean puree from sticking to the pot.
6.  Serve right as is or turn into ribollita with garlic rubbed pieces of toasted or stale country bread. Drizzle with olive oil.

This past weekend we were up north so the boy and some of his guys could pull the dock out of the lake for the winter.  This weekend had the first real fall chill, making it a cold job, especially for the guys that had to go in the lake.  This soup was the perfect hearty way to warm them up after.  I was dealing with a bunch of meat-eaters who come to the cottage for steaks and yet no one was bothered by this meatless soup.  Between the potatoes, beans and bread it was filling and warming, just what was needed.

I love that Ribollita is more of a vegetable stew, it's thick from the potatoes and bead puree and the tomatoes and thyme add a richness.   Even though I say I don't eat kale the organic black kale in this soup is so tender that I ate every bit. The fresh ingredients make is so flavorful with very little effort, which is another thing I love!  

This is by far my favorite Meatless Monday post thus far, I highly recommend trying it out!


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