Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When life gives you vegetables...make soup!

Last week, I whined about an overabundance of vegetables in my refrigerator, hoping for a Salon Kitchen Challenge on the subject of arugula, or turnips or cauliflower. That was not to be, we were given the subject of Halloween candy, which turned out pretty well for me, as I turned out Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce (using leftover Hershey's miniatures). Still, I needed to use up the vegetables, and turned to the thrifty cook's go-to recipe, soup.

I made ribollita, a Tuscan soup literally meaning "reboiled." It's a mixture of vegetables, broth and leftover bread. Hey, I had that, too. The result is a hearty soup in a tremendous quantity.

Ribollita by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 I had a lot of greens on hand, and added a chiffonade of arugula at the end. This is optional, but a colorful and tasty addition.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Asian eggplants, peeled and sliced on the bias
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen butter beans
4 cups vegetable or low-salt chicken broth, homemade if available
Salt and pepper to taste
A handful of basil, chiffonade, optional
Greens such as arugula, chiffonade, optional
Stale, good-quality rustic bread

1. In a soup pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat, stir in olive oil and place eggplant slices in pan. Cook them as you would meat, letting them brown on both sides. Stir in onions, letting them soften, followed by carrots and celery. Continue to cook until all the vegetables are brownish and soft, adding a bit of water if needed.

2. Stir in tomatoes, butter beans and broth. Add cabbage. Season to taste and let simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. If adding basil or greens, stir them into pot just before serving. Place slice of stale bread in bottom of soup bowl, ladle soup over all. Serve.

One of my favorite writers on the subject of food, or just about anything, is Calvin Trillin. In a piece in Gourmet magazine a few years ago, Trillin wrote that ribollita is Italian for "sticks to your ribs." I must agree, but there's always room for dessert, especially this dense apple cake, kind of a blondie with sweet apples baked inside. It's from Lisa Kuebler's blog and is fantastic.

Lisa's apple cake
Apple Cake by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

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