If you’re lucky enough to live in places where spring vegetables were planted weeks ago, you could already have a crop of spinach or green onions or asparagus. Our past-frost date in Colorado Springs hasn’t yet arrived; it’s June 1 – June 10. For the first time, I’ve snuck a few things in early, but am nightly ready to rush out to bring pots in or run into the yard like a crazy woman throwing blankets over newly-planted beds. (We have upcoming lows of 32 F this week, for instance.)
|Originally published three years ago, April 2, 2014 on my dinnerplace.blogspot.com site.|
Once, while visiting my sister, I said, “How about some lentil soup?” (I knew I was cooking dinner.) She shuddered and made as if to retch, all the while saying, “I love lentil soup, but…” Turns out that years ago, when she was still cooking for her family, a very large and delicious kettle of the soup went uneaten by anyone except by her. Days went by, the soup remained, she kept eating until….well, you might get the picture. Continue reading
If you’re “in the soup,” you’re what? You’re in trouble. If you “soup up” anything, you’re making it more powerful; if you go from “soup to nuts,” you’re going from beginning to end. Nuts have not been the end of a meal at my house ever, but I somewhat vaguely remember my colonial culinary history, where the tablecloth was removed for the dessert course which might be or include unshelled nuts.
Up next in the blog is a simple, yet incredibly tasty soup I made out of on-hand ingredients to preface a meal of steak with oven-browned potatoes accented with burnt onions and roasted asparagus. If your meal is easy and nearly instant, as was this, what a good time to make a first-course soup. Get ready for, “Oh, you made SOUP?!”
Wine: If you’re having a separate wine with a first course, by all means serve an Italian Falanghina or a Spanish Albarino. An un-oaked Chardonnay might be a dog that would hunt here. We made do with a California Petite Syrah we were having with the steak—and loved it, but could imagine a light Italian red as well if you’re an only-red-wine-drinker.
For a soup/ sandwich meal: Grill Swiss, Gouda or Brie on ciabatta.
Bread for first course: This soup is lovely with a salt and pepper and/or parmesan crostini; I include directions.
Serves 4 as a first course or 2-3 as a main course
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and minced
- 4 celery stalks, trimmed and minced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
- 1 15 ounce can tomatoes
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (garnish)
- 4 slices baguette
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan, optional
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In four-quart saucepan, melt butter and add carrots, celery and onion. Sauté five minutes, adding garlic half-way through. Stir in fresh herbs and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with fork or knife. You could food-process the tomatoes beforehand if you’d like. Cook briefly, one-two minutes to marry flavors. Add broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer until veggies are tender, 10-15 min. Add extra broth or water if soup becomes too thick. Check seasoning. Ladle into small bowls and pass feta cheese at table. Serve w/ salt and pepper crostini.Crostini:
What’s Ribollita? Hmm… Mmmm… Well, in Italian, it means reboiled. It means what???? Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? In reality, it’s a lovely simple, but hearty vegetable soup (think minestrone) that you made a day or two ago and mayyyyyybe don’t have quite enough of to go around tonight. The idea is to heat it up, make a few additions and pour it over some toasted bread. Great (grate!) parmesan on top and you’re in business. You’re in love. You gotta have this. There are many, I repeat, many ways to make such a soup.1. You can make it from scratch. You have the time; it’s wonderful! (If you’re really into learning about Italian soups–there are so many super ones—read ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING by Marcella Hazan. Lots of Italian cookbooks out there over the last ten years –I’ve read one or two; how about you!–and so many are tasty, tasty (think TRATTORIA by Patricia Wells), but I often go back to the not-too-distant classics. Why reinvent that pot? Do try any of the Marcella Hazan books or even ITALIAN COOKING by Elizabeth David.) Anyway, find a delish recipe for minestrone, make it, refrigerate it overnight and the next night, add the bread as in my versions.)
2.You can also make it from deli-counter minestrone or…
3. I have a great 30-40 minute version for any night. Below, read on; I give you the last two quicker options.
First a couple of hints for the meal.
Have this in the spring?? Ribollita sounds like a typical great winter-night soup and it is. But why not make it on a cool spring night and eat outside? I made this last Thursday for a good friend who LOVES anything Italian and we were thrilled to eat it under my blooming cherry (sour-I know I’m blessed) tree.Of course, cool spring nights abound in Colorado.
Wine: California Nebbiolo is so happy on the tongue here (especially if a dear friend brought you a bottle) Any rough (regular, everyday) or classic Chianti would also be just fine. The price about doubles from regular Chianti to classico. If it’s a birthday or special occasion, get classico. California zin would even work if that’s what you have in the house and you can’t get to the store.
Dessert: Why not be traditional American-Italian and have a wee serving of spumoni or tortoni? Another option: some great vanilla ice cream with amaretti cookies crushed and crumbled on top and drizzled with Amaretto.
Coffee: Yes, make some espresso. (You barely had to cook.) Freshen it with a twist of lemon.
So, here are the two choices on how to make your Ribollita–make sure you say it like this: ree-boh-leeeee-tah. Surely all Italian food names deserve to have those vowels drawn out forever. Practice saying it out loud. Very sweet sound. Raise the pitch of your voice on “leeee” and you’ve got it right. (I make my piano students say “piaahhhno” VERY softly; you get the idea.) Anything that tastes this good should sound as good as it tastes.
So, first, see if you’ve got any opera on your ipod or in your cd collection.. No? How about a “3 Tenors?” Put on whatever has something Italian in it and THEN BEGIN! Sing along!
Ok : Option #1 The Very Fastest Ribollita of All
Serves four ( or two very hungry people)
2 quarts deli minestrone soup
A few dried herbs or some garlic… maybe
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans (or any canned white beans)
4 ciabatta rolls or four slices baguette
4 tsp. olive oil
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese-about 1/2 cup divided
Hot sauce, your choice
Heat oven to 350 F.
Gently pour the minestrone into a 6qt saucepan and heat on medium. Taste for seasonings. (Add a little oregano, or some pepper, a teense basil, a tad garlic, even any Provencal herbs out of that gorgeous jar you bought last year –it’s hidden way in the back of the cupboard) You don’t need to add salt; I can just about guarantee that one. Open the beans, drain and rinse to remove extra salt. Add them to the pot and stir. Meantime, slice the ciabatta rolls in half and brush them lightly with olive oil. Put them on a cookie sheet and slide them into the oven for around five minutes. Longer if you’re at altitude like I am.When they’re toasty, remove from oven and place them in the bottom of each of four soup bowls. I like pasta bowls for this. Ladle hot soup over the toast and top with cheese. Pass extra cheese and hot sauce at the table. Laugh; this is good!
Options: Need heartier soup?
Add some julienned ham or sliced leftover Italian sausage
Sliced meatballs stirred in right at the end are great
You could even chop up some toppings from your takeout pizza
leftover from last night; pitch the crust or give to the dog, honey
Option #2 Ribollita from ” Scratch Today” in, oh, 40 min
2T olive oil (I use regular olive oil for cooking)
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, diced
4 slices bacon, pancetta or ham, chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 28oz can Italian tomatoes, such as Cento
2 boxes (6 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup shredded and chopped cabbage
1 bay leaf
1 t herbs de Provence
1 parmigiano reggiano rind (small is fine)
2 15 oz cans white beans of choice, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 ciabatta rolls, sliced or 12 slices baguette (buy extra if you’d like toserve more bread at the table)
6 t olive oil
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated, divided
1/4 cup chiffonade (sliced very thinly) fresh basil leaves for garnish, opt.
Hot sauce for table
Heat oven to 350 F. Brush ciabatta with olive oil and toast for five minutes or so. Set aside.
In 10 or 12 qt soup pot, heat olive oil to medium heat and add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and ham. Saute, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, broth, spinach, cabbage, herbs and parmigiano-reggiano rind. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer, stirring often until spinach and cabbage are tender. Add beans and stir. This soup should be thick, but if it’s too thick for you, add some broth or water. Taste and adjust seasoning using salt and pepper. Place bread in bowls and ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with half of cheese and top with fresh basil if desired.Pass rest of cheese and hot sauce at table.
Options: See above for meat additions.
You could add a small zucchini or two, chopped
Shredded Swiss chard could replace the spinach
What veg have you got? Add it. See what you think.
Are you still singing?
Up next in the blog: Blond(i)es Have More Fun