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Authentic Ribollita - A hearty peasant soup from Tuscany

From New Field Farm's Online Market

<p>This is a recipe for an authentic ribollita which is the classic peasant style Tuscan vegetable and bean soup. Added thickness and body comes from the addition of old bread. Ribollita is quite thick for a soup. &#8216;Ribollita&#8217; means boiled again and it is even better the day after you make it. Also, it should be noted that my recipe deviates slightly from the norm as the old bread is normally mixed right into the soup at the end. My method keeps it a bit more firm. It is made with a particular type of kale called ‘cavolo nero,’ which is called black leaf kale, dinosaur kale, or lacinato kale in English. In a pinch I have used other types of kale, but quite frankly, the result is really inferior–it does not have the right flavor and life is just too short to eat inferior food when, with a little effort and sense of adventure, you can have the very best result.</p> <p>Tools</p> Large Stock Pot with lid Wooden Spoon Ladle Deep bowl for soaking beans Pot with lid for cooking beans Immersion Blender (optional but helpful) Large baking sheet
Source: (Entered by Elisa Benincaso)
Serves: Serves 6-8

1 bunch cavolo nero (lacinato kale) ribbed and cut into approx. 1 inch piecesces
1/4 cabbage cored and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch leafy beet tops (greens) ribbed and cut into approx. 1 inch pieces
1 leek cut into 1/4 inch slices – remove the root end and darker green part
1 onion peeled and cut in half (lengthwise) and then cut into 1/4 inch half round slices
2 potatoes (I like Yukon gold types for this) peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 carrots – peeled, cut length-wise and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 zucchini – cut length-wise and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 celery stalks – cut length-wise and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 plum tomatoes (very ripe) peeled and seeded
some a good amountt Extra Virgin Olive Oil – please use the good stuff with a green color and fruity taste (fruttato) the original Tuscan recipe is adamant about the use of Tuscan olive oil but I’m a bit more lax
some salt I use Kosher or gray salt
some pepper Freshly ground
9 ozs Bread in one-inch cubes – A Tuscan boule or that type of European crusty bread

Step by Step Instructions
  1. Soak the beans for about 8 hours in a bowl of cold water with the water covering the beans by about 3 or 4 inches. Drain the soaking water and cook beans in 2 liters of water until tender (about 1 hour). You will be using both the beans and the water that they cooked in.
  2. Wash all vegetables thoroughly. In a large stock pot (preferably wide with room to stir a bit) gently cook the onion in about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Bit by bit add the rest of the vegetables, beginning with the leek, cabbage and kale. Stir intermittently and you will notice that the leafy vegetables ’shrink’ quite a bit. The process of adding the vegetables and cooking them in the pot should take about 10 minutes or so.
  3. Add the water that the beans cooked in and 1/2 of the beans and stir them in gently. Take the other half of the beans and pass through a food mill. What you want here is the interior of the beans and not the skins. This bean paste serves as a lovely thickener. If you don’t have a food mill, then put them in a food processor and strain the processed beans through a sieve. You can actually skip this step if you want and simply add all the beans to the soup. It will just have a bit rougher texture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the soup simmer at low heat for about 2 hours. Either ‘zip’ an immersion blender into it until some vegetables are smooth or you can leave some chunkiness so that you have some texture or mash with a large spoon. Some like this soup smoother and some like it more chunky. You will find your favorite texture after you've made it a few times. In Tuscany, particularly since it's eaten the next day and the bread is added right into the stock pot, the soup is quite 'mushy'.
  5. Toast the bread on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for about 4 minutes. Place about a 1/2 cup of toasted bread cubes in the serving bowls and ladle soup over them until well covered. You can add some freshly grated cheese such as Grana, Parmigiano or Pecorino over it (not very traditional and it can be omitted but I like it). Drizzle a thread of fruity olive oil (this is traditional) over each serving and let sit for a few minutes in order for bread to ‘amalgamate’ into the soup. There! You have a Nirvana-like experience in a bowl. Good for the body and the soul.