If Spring Isn’t Here Yet, I’m Going To Keep Cooking Winter Food
This post is my protest to Mother Nature. As Hillary mentioned last week, the first day of Spring in Chicago came and went without so much as a break in the cold temperatures or a pause in the snow. We’re still quite cold and dreary here. And even though our loyal Cub’s fans are willing to pretend it’s baseball weather, I don’t think I’ll be in that mentality until I see some sunshine.
I know I should be embracing the new, seasonal vegetables that are beginning to appear in the produce section, but all I really want is a big bowl of soup. I’ve been wanting to make Ribollita all winter, but, as so many other bloggers have expressed recently, there were just too many recipes and not enough time! But since Mother Nature has graciously granted us this eternal winter, it seems I’ll be making soup through July. (I really hope not!!)
I checked out a few recipes for Ribollita, but it was Ina Garten’s that really looked the best – surprise, surprise. Just the idea of large chunks of bread soaking up the deliciously flavorful broth was enough to make my mouth water. At the beginning of the recipe, she mentions that a Ribollita is an Italian soup that began as a way to use up leftover bread and ingredients at the end of the week.
I made a few adjustments and substitutions to the recipes, but overall I followed Ina’s lead. I didn’t use the pancetta and cut some corners using canned beans instead of fresh, but I don’t think either change really impacted the dish.
I really loved the colorful variety of veggies in the pot as the kale cooked down with the carrots, celery and onions. The tiny bit of red pepper flakes really a zing to the broth without being “spicy” – an element that I was surprised to enjoy!
Ina’s recipe makes a good deal of soup, but I was happy to have leftovers to freeze for an easy dinner down the road. The soup was certainly one that would make Ina proud. Dessert, however, was not. Don’t tell Ina, or the baking police, but we made the cake from a box.
It may be shameful to some, but that Duncan Hines cake was so light and fluffy and oh so easy to make! Plus, check out the frosting job that R pulled off. Who knew he was so good at frosting cakes!?
But to get back to the real cooking, I highly recommend making the Ribollita anytime for a quick and filling soup. Make sure you use fresh, springy bread – it really makes a difference.
Ribollita Italian Soup
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Ribollita recipe
1 can cannellini beans
1/4 C. olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 C. chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 C. chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 C. chopped celery (3 stalks)
3 Tbs. minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
4 C. coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage (optional)
4 C. coarsely chopped kale
1/2 C. chopped fresh basil leaves
6 C. chicken stock, preferably homemade
4 C. sourdough or ciabatta bread cubes, crusts removed
1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 Tbs. of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.