I was in the public library the other day, and as I walked past a display of fall cookbooks, one caught my eye.
Entitled An Everlasting Meal, it was the subtitle which led me to pick it up: Cooking with Economy and Grace. Wow, if I could just master that. :)
As I flipped through the pages, I saw a recipe for a famous Tuscan Bread Soup called Ribollita. Given that I'm still missing my mom, my mind went back to a wonderful meal my family and I had at a small restaurant on the Piazza Signoria in Florence during the Jubilee of 2000. We were doing a grand tour, starting in Turin and ending in Rome. It was one of my favorite trips. Coincidentally, we were there the last few days of September and the beginning of October, almost exactly thirteen years ago. My, how quickly time goes by.
Well, back to the story. As best I can recall, the day was cool, so my mom and I ordered bowls of Ribollita, which is an ancient peasant soup famous throughout Tuscany. Thickened with day-old bread, it's a kind of stick to your ribs type of soup. I love to make it when the weather starts to cool and the last of the tomatoes are still at the Farmer's Market. This is a very simple dish, and I hope you'll give it a try.
Here's the recipe found in An Everlasting Meal.
1 medium onion, diced
2 clove garlic, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley and rosemary, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 peeled whole tomatoes
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup water
2 cups cannellini beans
2 cups broth from homemade beans, or any combination of vegetable stock, liquid from tomatoes and/or water
1 piece Parmesan rind
2 cups stale bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1/2 inch pieces
Heat 1/4 inch olive oil in large soup pot. Cook onion, garlic and celery in oil, add salt. Once they soften, add herbs and red pepper flakes. Add tomatoes, breaking up with spoon as they soften. Cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes.
Add chopped kale and water. Cover pot and cook over low until kale has wilted. Add beans, broth, and Parmesan rind. Simmer, adding bread and 1/2 cup olive oil.
Cover pot, turning heat to very low, and cook for 30 minutes. Add broth or water if soup starts getting too dry. The bread will absorb all the liquid, so keep your eye on it.
After 30 minutes, season to taste, remove cheese rind. Serve warm, with grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.