Thursday, April 03, 2008
I live in the deep south, and as such, there are certain types of food which I cannot easily find. Savoy cabbage is one thing that I think I've found just twice in the last 10 years. Last weekend, though we were in Atlanta and made a visit to the Decatur Farmer's Market. Oh JOY! Oh BLISS! Oh HEAVEN ON EARTH! As soon as I walked in, I told DD that I wished I had brought my little two man tent because I was moving in! They had everything I ever wanted and then some, and everything was perfect and everything was very, very inexpensive. If I shopped there regularly, I think my food bills would go down maybe 25% . I saw a perfect, small savoy cabbage and brought it home. Tonight, I cooked half of it in a traditional Tuscan soup called Ribollita.
Ribollita means "cooked again" in Italy, and refers to the long, slow cooking that gives this soup its characteristic thick character. However, since I had two starving teenagers to feed, the soup did not cook a long time. Its now after dinner, and the leftovers are quietly simmering on the stove, so I expect the soup to be perfect tomorrow. This soup is also a candidate for the crockpot; just set everything to cook in the morning and come home to a delicious dinner.
In Tuscany, the preferred green vegetable is a variety of black kale and the preferred bean is cannelini. Here in America, any type of kale or cabbage will do, but sharply flavored greens such as mustard greens would overpower this simple dish. Cannelini beans are easily available, but any white bean such as Great Northern, flageolets, or even navy beans would be good substitutes.
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 - 4 oz pancetta, diced (optional) OR 1 tsp liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, cleaned well and diced
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 Tbs Herbes de Provence
1 Tbs dried basil or 3 Tbs fresh basil, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 15 oz can cannelini beans, drained
6 C chicken (or vegetable stock)
1 bay leaf
A 3-inch piece of dried out parmesan rind
6 - 8 oz (half a small head) of savoy cabbage, sliced into ribbons
Put about 2 Tbs olive oil in the bottom of a large, thick bottomed pot. Over medium high heat, saute the onion, leek, celery, carrot, and pancetta if you are using it, until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the edges of the vegetables are just beginning to turn golden. Stir in the salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, basil and bay leaf and saute for a minute, then add in the tomatoes with their juice, the drained cannelini beans, the stock, parmesan rind and cabbage. Stir well, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium low to keep it slowly simmering. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. If you can simmer for a few hours, it will be more delicious, but its plenty good after 30 or 45 minutes.
Serve with large croutons. To make croutons, take a slice of bread, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on one side, and toast until golden brown. I used greek flat breads and they were delicious.
Place a crouton in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the soup over it. Sprinkle with parmesan if you want (we didn't) and enjoy!
DD has a new boyfriend, hereinafter known as TBF2, and he liked the soup enough to ask for the recipe, so I guess this is a winner!
To make this vegan is simple: Use vegetable broth, or use 6 C water plus 1 1/2 Tbs Vogue Veggie Base. Omit the pancetta, but towards the last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in 1 tsp liquid smoke, which is what I did. You can omit the parmesan entirely and its still a delicious soup.