January, I've been told, is soup month, but I don't need a special month in which to make a pot of soup in the winter. I adore soup - especially heart-warming, soul-soothing Ribollita which could very well be my favorite, as it is Mario Batali's. The second soup, Golden Vegetable, is supposedly attributed to Lulu Powers who was Madonna's caterer in London.
Either soup benefits from a stay in the 'fridge overnight so the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before reheating - and make sure you serve in nice warm bowls.
RIBOLLITA (serves 6)
If you cannot find Tuscan kale, also known as cavolo nero (black cabbage), use regular kale.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and green part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 to 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves, plus 1 whole garlic clove, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 pound coarsely chopped Tuscan kale
1/2 pound coarsely chopped white cabbage
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can Cannellini beans, drained, but not rinsed
4 to 6 cups water
Parmesan rind (optional)
Italian peasant bread or sourdough, sliced thickly
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive oil over medium setting and add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, sliced garlic, herb sprigs and bay leaf. Sprinkle gently with kosher salt, stir and cook until the vegetables are soft but not brown.
Add the kale and white cabbage, sprinkle again with a bit of kosher salt and cook until softened and blended, about 10 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs and bay leaf.
Add the tomato paste to the vegetable mixture and stir until it is well distributed. Add the beans and 6 cups water. Add the Parmesan cheese rind, if you have it. Sprinkle again with a bit of kosher salt and give it a few grindings of black pepper. Stir all around and simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes, or until the soup thickens slightly and tastes great. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Before serving, place the bread slices on a baking sheet, slide under the broiler and toast both sides, until a nice brown (watch carefully). Rub the toasted bread with the raw garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with lots of grated Parmesan. Serve with the toasted bread on the side. Invite me!
GOLDEN VEGETABLE SOUP (6 servings)
Important you blend the soup together before adding the cayenne and maple syrup which you should do a little at a time until it is to your taste. I've been known to sometimes add a pinch of curry powder at the end.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 cup peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped turnip
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped butternut squash
1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped sweet potato
5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons real maple syrup, to taste
1 small whole-grain baguette, cut into 6 slices
3 ounces soft goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent but not brown. Add apple, turnip, squash, carrot, celery and sweet potato. Season with salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool slightly.
Puree with a hand-held mixer, food processor or blender. Stir in cayenne pepper and maple syrup to taste, a little at a time, after soup is blended.
For toast toppers, place bread slices on a baking sheet and toast both sides under the broiler. Spread the tops while warm with the goat cheese, sprinkle with chives. Pour soup into 6 large warm bowls and float toasts on top.