The winter chill is finally starting to leave the Long Island area.  I have heard reports of flower sightings in Central Park and yesterday I was a little overdressed in my winter coat.  Despite the turn in weather, I still can’t resist a huge pot of soup that will last me for days.  I have been stocking up on dried beans and found myself with some cannellini beans.  I have been waiting patiently all winter (much procrastinating and cooking of other things) to make a ribollita, a Tuscan dish that literally means “re-boiled”.  What, you may ask is re-boiled?  Traditionally, it was leftover minestrone soup with stale bread added to thicken and extend it.  For many today it has turned into a fridge clearing soup.  It’s a bit time consuming but if you cook and freeze your beans you will get rid of a big chunk of cooking time.  I made this last night after eating dinner so it would be ready for today and with many leftovers.  I will be sharing this with the rest of my family for sure.

The inspiration for this recipe came from the Love Soup book by Anna Thomas.  If you didn’t know, Anna Thomas also wrote The Vegetarian Epicure while a graduate student in the 70’s.  She is one of the pioneers of showcasing vegetarian cooking in a hearty saliva dripping way unlike many of the unappetizing vegetarian cookbooks of the disco era.  If you are looking for a fabulous cookbook dedicated to soups, run to get this.  It is filled with soups categorized by season and spanning from cold and delicate soups to hearty show-stoppers.

Ribollita

Serves: 10-12 (with leftovers)
PrepTtime: 20 minutes
Active  Cooking Time: 2 hours (but so worth it)

12 c. water (divided)
1 lb. bag of cannelinni beans
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
10 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
1 tblsp. salt, divided
2 large onions, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
3 carrots,  chopped
1 large red potato, chopped
1 fennel bulb, fronds removed, quartered and chopped
1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 cup fruity red wine/white wine
1 can tomato paste
1 Parmesan cheese rind (save them and keep them in the freezer)
1 big pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups good quality low sodium vegetable/chicken/beef stock
8 oz. crusty bread, sliced and toasted

Bean Preparation

In a large pot, combine 8 cups water, rosemary,  5 cloves of chopped garlic, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until beans are tender but not mushy.  This will depend on how old your beans are.  My beans took about 1 hour and 15 minutes but it could take up to 2 hours.  Add a large pinch of salt and let cook for another 10 minutes to infuse with flavor.  Let beans cool.  At this point you can cover (in the cooking liquid) them and reserve them in the fridge until ready to make the soup.

Heat 2-3 tblsp. olive oil in in your largest and heaviest pot.  I used my Fontignac (like Le Creuset) over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic and a big pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper.  Sweat them out and then add the red pepper, carrots, potato, and fennel.  Cook until vegetables are starting to get soft and are browning a bit, about 10-15 minutes total.  Add the wine and scrape up all the bits.  Add the tomato paste and stir till distributed through soup.  Add kale, Parmesan rind, 3 cups of water, and a teaspoon of salt.  Bring it up to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes.  Finally, add the beans and cooking liquid to the vegetable mixture or the vegetable mixture to the bean and liquid mixture (depending on which pot is the largest).  Add your vegetable/chicken/beef stock and bring to a boil again, drop the heat back to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Rip your toasted bread into pieces and stir into soup.  Serve with some gratings of Parmesan cheese.  I like to take the hot melty rind of Parmesan cheese and spread it on some more toasted bread.

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