*in my best Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls voice* Picture this, Tuscany 1952, you’re in need of a dish to feed your family and all you’ve got is the minestrone from last night, some stale bread and an old prosciutto bone lying around. What do you do? Make only the most delicious soup imaginable, quite possibly better than that minestrone from the night before.
But seriously, kids, how lovely is it when a great plan comes together. A few pantry ingredients, maybe even some leftovers and a bit of time putzing around the kitchen and voila! Gorgeousness on a plate, or in this case, a bowl. The name itself gives it away with this one – ribollita is Italian for reboiled. Any glamour and cache that this soup might garner from its placement on modern Italian menus is only a recent distinction – the dish has the humble origins of true peasant food. Just as in Brazil, a pot of black beans can be extended for additional eaters with some water and a little more rice, this soup is extended by day-old bread soaking up the rich vegetable broth. A smidge of good quality cheese (which you regular readers know that, for me, is a smattering of locatelli) and you are in like flynn.
There are much fancier versions than this one, but I love this recipe because it’s a weekday charmer. No prosciutto bone here, and a parmesan rind only if you have one around. Black kale (cavolo nero or dinosaur kale) is the star of the show, but can be replaced by any kale or bitter greens you can find. Canned beans and pantry chicken stock speed along the process, and by dicing everything in the food processor saves a hell of a lot of time. In addition, if you leave out the bacon and chicken stock, you’ve got a comforting vegetarian supper on your hands. No cheese and it’s vegan. A warm bowl of love for all sorts of eaters? It doesn’t get any better than that.
2 qts. of stock
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of black kale, ribbed and roughly chopped
1 can of canellini beans
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
sprig of rosemary
sprig of thyme
parmesan rind (optional)
2 tbs. of olive oil
3 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
slices of old, stale bread or toasted ciabatta
Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven on high and add your olive oil. Once it begins to shimmer, toss in your bacon and allow it to crisp up a bit. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until fragrant. Add your tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and stir to warm through. Lastly, add the stock, parmesan rind and cannelini beans. Allow stock to come to a boil and fold in the black kale. Cook until kale is tender over medium-high heat, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, place a few slices of ciabatta (or hunks of old bread) on the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle hot soup over the bread and top with grated parmesan.
Like Italian Wedding Soup, Caldo Verde is a celebration of meat, greens and broth, with the star carb as tender, simmered potatoes. This soup is as hearty as it is easy to make, and a great use of winter kale when in season, cheap and plentiful. The soup, Portuguese in origin, traditionally uses linguica for the sausage, but I’ve made this in a pinch with kielbasa, andouille, chorizo and even Bruce Aidell’s chicken sausage. Regardless of what ingredients you employ, you can expect a warm, nourishing bowl of comfort that is both simple to prepare and good for you.
Quick Caldo Verde
3 qts. of chicken stock
6 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 lb. of mild sausage, removed from casings
1 bunch of fresh kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 tsp. of black pepper
Bring quarts of chicken stock to a boil. Toss the potatoes, garlic and kale into the pot. In a sauté pan, brown the sausage until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain the grease from the sausage and add the meat to the soup. Simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the stock pot until the potatoes are loosely mashed. Serve.
This recipe is decidedly a hack – upon researching recipes for Thanksgiving, I came across a stuffing that looked to be a welcomed alternative to my tried and true Classic Stuffing. Given that this year’s celebration was a pot luck extravaganza, why not two stuffings instead of one? Truthfully, I wanted to do a third Oyster Dressing like the ones we used to have at my paternal grandmother’s house every year, but not enough people were into oysters, so I skipped it.
The original recipe from Food Network Kitchens is good, but I lost the leeks and butternut squash for caramelized red onions and canned pumpkin – MUCH easier, which is really what you are going for at Thanksgiving. The result was moist, flavorful and complex – a nice accompaniment to turkey and gravy, if I might say so myself. Give this one a try if you are looking to make a new tradition or two – how can you form a tradition if you don’t try something out for the first time, right? Right?!?
Sausage, Pumpkin and Kale Stuffing
2 round loaves of foccacia (onion or herb)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 can of pumpkin
1 can of chicken stock (or 2 cups of homemade stock)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs. of olive oil
2 tbs. of butter
1 lb. of sweet italian sausage
1 bunch of kale
1 tsp. of whole fennel seeds
1 tsp. of rubbed sage
1 tsp. of white pepper
shredded pecorino romano
Cube foccacia and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the white pepper, sage, fennel seeds, pumpkin and chicken stock and mix until incorporated. Set aside.
In a skillet, brown the sausage and remove with a slotted spoon. Add the olive oil and sauté the kale until wilted. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to sausage. Add the butter to the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Let the onions sweat it out in the pan until dark brown and soft, about 10 minutes.
In a huge bowl, add the foccacia cubes, sausage and kale, and caramelized onions. Toss to combine and then pour in the pumpkin mixture. Turn out into a greased 13x9x2 casserole and bake in a 375° oven until puffy and golden on top, about 35-45 minutes.