I have been SO hungry lately. I think it’s due to that late-winter early-spring slump of good food. Consequently, we eat sub-par food and mostly vegetables from cans and frozen bags because they actually taste better than the “fresh” stuff out there on the shelves, not to mention the cheap goodies I eat too much of trying to reach that satisfied state that they simply cannot help me attain.
So the last few weeks I’ve spent some serious time in the kitchen, trying to come up with foods that are new, exciting, and healthy. And I thought I’d share! (Forgive my low-qual pictures).
First, I am going to share my absolute favorite food with you. Ribollita! It’s a Tuscan vegetable stew that gets better each day it sits in the fridge. Ribollita is actually the Italian word for “reboiled” or “reheated” and the soup is meant to be eaten for several days running, with the addition of bread to thicken it up and turn it into more of porridge as the days goes on. I don’t bother with the bread, but boy, it is the best leftovers in the world!!!
First, get a nice mirepoix going in extra virgin olive oil. I love the way this smells when I’m able to get nice Vidalia onions and sweet, fresh organic celery. The first time I cooked this with organic celery I ran around the house exclaiming “what is that heavenly smell?!?” only to realize it was my celery. Forget that old chemically nonsense! Go to Whole Foods and get it. It’s worth it.
While that’s sizzling, slice up some beautiful, lovely zucchini.
I decided to include kale. I’ve never used it before in my soup, but apparently it’s not true ribollita with out kale or some other dark, leafy green. Honestly, it didn’t make or break the soup for me. Nevertheless, I sliced out the ribs, chopped it into medium size pieces, and added it with the zucchini to saute for just a couple of minutes.
After all this has sauted a few minutes, it’s time to add the chopped tomatoes, drained and rinsed cannellini beans, and four cups of vegetable broth. I prefer to use bouillion cubes from the farm co-op (and not your everyday bouillion cubes, mind you, these things are INCREDIBLE) but I was out.
All this time, I had some Italian sausage links cooking away on the stove top. I chopped up three of them and stirred them into the mix as well. They add a beautiful flavor, and they add meat for the hungry husband. However, they are not necessary and I make the soup as often without as with.
And now, for the creme de la creme, the raison d’etre of ribollita – the pesto. Do NOT omit this. It is so amazing. And don’t be discouraged by all the expensive pestos you see in the store – Classico sells a nice jar of it for less than $3, and it keeps well in the fridge or the freezer.
Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a very nice and gentle simmer. You can simmer it slightly harder and it will be done in 25-30 minutes, but if you simmer it as low as possible for longer, the flavors will blend beautifully. And don’t be concerned if the vegetables are ever so slightly crunchy the first night. As you resimmer the next couple of times (it makes a nice size batch) the vegetables will get perfect. But it’s easy for zucchini to turn to complete mush if you cook it too hard or too long the first time around, so be careful.
When serving the soup, have plenty of grated Parmesan to pass around. If sprinkled generously, it melts divinely into the soup and infuses a nice cheesiness into it.
In the end, particularly with the addition of sausage, this makes a very low-fat, fiber-full, and healthy one-dish meal. It doesn’t need much to accompany it besides some small muffins or scones. And that, my friends, is my ribollita!!! It’s so easy, easier than it looks. Enjoy!