Monday, December 28, 2015

Ribollita Makes Being A Medieval Peasant Look Good

This is a classic Tuscan peasant stew made with old bread, white beans, and greens (usually kale). The name ribollita means “re-boiled,” because this soup was typically made by combining leftover vegetable soup in a clay pot and re-cooking it with additional vegetables and olive oil.  So feel free to mix it up with whatever herbs, vegetables, and beans you have lying around. I’ve had success adding rosemary, eggplant, leek, oregano, savoy cabbage, chard, parsnip, and dried mushrooms. Common additions can also include sausage or prosciutto. No matter what you add, it will make for a hearty, delicious winter soup. In fact, it's so good, it makes you wonder if being a poor medieval Italian peasant was actually all that bad after all. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

¼ cup top-quality, extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
4 cloves garlic, minced… plus 1 additional clove, whole
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 cups veggie stock
2 cups water
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
A touch of fresh herbs (8 cut basil or sage leaves, or a thyme sprig are all great)
2 potatoes, chopped into 3/4” cubes
2-3 bunches kale
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
6 slices stale bread (or enough to make 6 cups once you cut it into 1”cubes)
Fresh-grated, top-quality Parmesan cheese (optional)

Start by cutting the kale. Remove leaves from the stems and coarsely shred the leaves. Then take the stems and cut them up fairly well—into about 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer all your kale bits to a big bowl.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Toss in minced garlic, onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté for a few minutes, until the veggies begin to soften up. Then stir in the stock, water, tomatoes, bay leaves, fresh herbs, potatoes, kale, salt, and pepper. After that, take a fork and mash the beans up in their cans a nice bit then add those as well. Increase to medium high heat and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 75 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like a less-thick soup, add a couple extra cups of water.

As the soup finishes up, toast the bread to medium darkness in the oven. Once toasted, take your last remaining garlic clove, peel, and slice it width-wise. Rub the garlic, cut-side-down, on each slice to give it a wonderful garlic infusion. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and stir half of it into the soup. Remove soup from heat and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

When you dish the soup, throw a few cubes of the remaining bread in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the soup over the top. Finish with a generous additional drizzle of olive oil and Parmesan, if using.

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