August 8, 2010

Eating Like Peasants

This is further proof that I can't get enough of a) soup and b) Italian food.

Tuscan bread soup, or Ribollita, is a soup that was eaten by peasants because it's hearty, filling, and included ingredients easily accessible to them. Typically the soup is simply leftover minestrone with bread added to it; it's vegetarian by nature because of the lack of meat and cheese readily available to that class. Luckily even though that class structure is no more, the soup has remained a delicious Tuscan staple.

Also typical of this soup is that it takes three days to make. The first day is reserved to make the minestrone, then the second day bread is added and the soup is allowed to rest overnight. On the third day, the soup is reheated (ribollita means "reboiled") and served. I didn't have neither the time nor desire to devote three days to making soup, so this is my quick but equally delicious version.

- 1 bunch kale (preferably dinosaur kale), chopped
- 1/2 head cabbage, either savoy or green, shredded
- 4 small red potatoes, cubed
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 large red onion or 1 medium, finely chopped
- 2 ribs garlic, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 vine tomatoes, boiled, peeled and hand crushed
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp olive oil + extra for drizzling
- 1 15oz can beans (cannellini is preferred but I used kidney)
- 6-8oz of stale bread, cut into 1in cubes (about 1/2 an Italian baguette)
- Fresh parsley,basil and thyme, to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- S&P, to taste

- In a large pot or dutch oven, saute aromatics in olive oil until translucent.
- Add kale, cabbage and potatoes and top with enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the greens are wilted.
- Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to simmer. Add beans and continue simmering for around 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, fish out the bay leaves and puree half the soup in batches. Put all of the soup into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Using the same pot (off the heat), put a layer of stale bread on the bottom and cover with a layer of soup. Continue layering until soup is gone. Set aside for at least 2 hours.
- Half an hour before serving, bring the soup up to a low boil and simmer. Ladle into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil.

I know that this soup is quite involved and is an all day affair, but it's SO worth it. It sticks to your ribs and has a wonderful, earthy, herbaceous flavor. Think of it as spending all day putting love into a pot. It's a perfect way to use up a lot of stale bread and it's definitely interesting to see how much thicker it makes the soup. Also, imagine how amazing the leftovers will taste, because this is the kind of soup that gets infinitely better with age. So go get the ingredients and make this soup - I promise you won't regret it. If you do, just send the leftovers to me.

Side note: For a wine pairing, I highly recommend either a chianti classico or a rosé. I drank a bit of rosé and it went beautifully.