On Monday night I made ribollito - a hearty Italian bean soup. I haven't made it since I moved out of my first Chicago apartment in 2006; I know this because I offered Dad the leftovers when he came to help me move. He scooped it out of the big bowl with a plastic cup and drank it cold. I was hoping he would savor the experience and commend me on such a delicious meal. When that didn't happen, I eagerly asked him, "Did you like it?"
"Yeah," he shrugged. Then quickly nodding his head, "It's good shit." Then, in tradition, he bent over to sniff the bowl as if to examine it for signs of shit. His eyes lit up and he laughed in a way that implied, "get it?"
I got it. That's his oldest trick in the book - saying something's good shit, then playing the straight man and sniffing the food in alarm and distrust. That's one of Dad's finest performance art pieces. That and starting "alleyway knife fights" in the kitchen...and playing Spock by asking logical questions in response to colloquialisms. Example:
Colloquialism: It'll make you shit like a goose.
Spock response: Why would one endeavor to defecate like an aquatic fowl?
God love him.
Anyway, I had a big craving for it last week and decided to cook up another batch. I saw it made a few years ago on Everyday Italian, but I bumped up the beans and veggies, dialed down the oil, and replaced the Herbs de Provence with basil. I hate Herbs de Provence - with its inclusion of lavender, it's way too floral for me. The key to this beast is a big parmesan rind - it dissolves slowly in the simmering soup, thickening the broth and making it slightly creamy.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 oz pancetta or bacon, diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 24 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cans white beans (navy, canneloni, whatever), drained and rinsed
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (fold spinach into a tea towel or good paper towels and squeeze)
3 c chicken stock
1 big parmesan rind, chopped into 3 large pieces (or use big chunks of parm)
Salt, pepper, red pepper flake to taste
1/4 c fresh basil
In a large pot, saute the carrots, onion and pancetta in olive oil until the meat is crispy and the onions have browned. This may take some time; if the pan is crowded the veggies and meat will steam, which sucks. This happened to me, so I just cranked up the heat and kept an eye on it until the water dissipated and the fat really started to render and do it's work. I think it took about 15-20 minutes. Just do your other food prep in the meantime.
Add tomato paste and stir until veggies are coated. Stir in canned tomatoes, using a spoon to break up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add beans, spinach, chicken stock and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking for at least 30 minutes. The tomatoey broth should look milky from the cheese. Add salt and pepper, red pepper flakes to taste. Before serving, stir in the chopped basil.
Serve over toasted bread (whole wheat!), topped with grated parmesan cheese and a touch of olive oil.
Leftovers: It's my personal belief that a dish like this is even better with a fried egg on top. Or poach an egg in it: reheat a serving of the soup in a skillet. Make a little dip in the center and add a whole egg. Cover and simmer until egg is cooked. It's kind of like "Eggs in Purgatory" or eggs simmered in tomato sauce. You can also reheat with chopped chicken. Bone App!
So there's that,