Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tuscan Ribollita

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Things are kooky, nutty, and chaotic here with me having one of my busiest seasons yet and my husband, Will, in his first semester of grad school.  Working around the clock with end-of-semester projects at one end of our railroad apartment.  At the other end, mounds of shopping bags, lists, cookbooks, recipes jotted on scratch paper, food labels, filthy food-splashed clogs, and somewhere that tube of hand cream that I can never quite locate.

The crack of dawn at Union Square
The place as a whole is surprisingly not trashed since we have been steadily trying to tidy up as we go to prevent a complete lifestyle meltdown.  No strolling around 'marketing' for our veggies right now.  We have been almost exclusively Fresh Direct (online grocery delivery, for the non-New Yorkers who don't know what that is).  I feel lucky on days where I have one normal meal, hit the gym at some point, and sleep at least 6 hours.  Wellness Fizz and green juice are a part of my agenda when I remember.  .  .That's where I am.  It's sad to not have time to reflect on the new experimental dishes and old favorites that I pretty much live with as my main focus every day.  The produce in season has long since changed since I had a moment to walk around at the greenmarket, photograph pretty veggies, and create a recipe to go with them. 

Brooding root vegetables, beautiful like Gothic architecture.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to have a cook-at-home day.  The client just wanted a homemade soup delivery and was craving a hearty Tuscan something with lots of seasonal veggies, plus one other of my choice.  With zeal and zest, I trotted down to our neighborhood's health food store at 8am on the dot.  I wanted to get this work day over with so I could catch up on other things.  I found big waxy looking bunches of lacinato kale, beautiful green cabbage with streaks of purple in the curly outer leaves, decent Roma tomatoes, local fennel bulbs, and a nice organic fresh herb mix.  Yes! Tuscan soup in the making!

I also gathered my ingredients for Black Bean Soup (this is my go-to black bean soup since I tried this recipe from my friends at Grapes and Greens, FYI.) and headed home to get this soup party cooking, finished, and delivered.  Time's a wastin'.  As I chopped and prepped, I kept reminding myself to simplify.  Just focus on the soup and I can make our dinner, mop the floor, plan client menus, and sort laundry later.  Just because I can multi-task doesn't mean I always have to multi-task--a continually difficult concept for a chef, a New Yorker, or a high-energy person to accept and live with. 

As I sliced the fennel and munched on scraps, shredded cabbage and started simmering these pungent and earthy veggies, I simplified.  Focusing on each step, I stood over the pot while the fennel became translucent. This Tuscan soup gave me some much-needed respite from the frantic pace I'm used to.  It reminded and amused me that this fragrant traditional soup from Italy caused those around it to take on an easy Italian pace, each step producing new colors, textures, and fragrances to appreciate.   I highly recommend making some of this Tuscan Ribollita and slowing down the pace rather than rush out to the holiday crowds.  It is so good and packed with dark leafy veggies.  It might even ward off a cold if you are starting to run down.
I'm off to have another bowl right now.

Ribollita in the works!
Tuscan Ribollita

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 large unpeeled Yukon Gold potato, scrubbed and cubed
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced crosswise
1 large pinch of dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 bunch of lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale), cut
     into 1” ribbons
4 cups thinly sliced savoy cabbage
5 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 2-inch Parmesan cheese rind
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2-4 cups vegetable broth

(opt.) serve with crusty ciabatta bread

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion; sprinkle with sea salt.  Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. 

Add celery, carrot, potato, fennel, thyme, and sage; cook until vegetables are tender and bring t turn brown in spots, stirring often, 15-18 minutes. 

Add kale, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, cheese rind, 5 cups water and 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 1 ½ hours.

No comments: