Monday, September 23, 2013

Ribollita

Now that it's officially autumn and the temperatures are finally getting to be cooler, it's time to start making those warm, delicious, hearty, comfort foods again.  Yay!  I absolutely love the heartier foods that are made in Tuscany and I look forward each year to be able to whip up all the yummy soups, stews, and roasts that come to mind around this time!  One of my favorite dishes (and a favorite of my Toscano) is ribollita.

Ribollita is "peasant food" at its best.  The name comes from the fact that originally it was basically minestrone soup that was "re-boiled" the next day with the addition of leftover bread.  Today's recipes for ribollita rarely call for it to be "re-boiled", but it is still a very inexpensive, yet hearty and delicious meal!

To make ribollita, you need a big pot, a lot of vegetables and some bread.

Start out by chopping up your vegetables.  You'll need some onions (I used red onions here, but you can use yellow onions if you prefer), garlic, carrots, celery and parsley at this point.


After you get done chopping these vegetables, pour some extra-virgin olive oil in a big, deep pot and add your chopped veggies.  Stir them around so they don't stick and season with some salt and pepper.  


Let it cook for 20 minutes and be sure to stir it often.  You really don't want this to stick to the bottom of your pan.  (If you need to, add a little water.)

Your vegetables are going to end up nice and soft with a slight golden color.


At this point, you'll need to add some crushed tomatoes.


Did I mention that this is going to start smelling amazing?  Mmmm!  

Stir the tomatoes in and let them cook for about 5 minutes or so.  They just need to lose that "raw tomato" scent.

While that's cooking, drain your cannellini beans.  Take 1 cup of the beans and set them aside.  When the your 5 minutes are up after adding the tomatoes, dump in the beans (minus the cup you set aside).  


Give them a stir and while they start cooking, place into a food processor the 1 cup of beans that you saved, along with 1 cup of water.  


Whiz them around until it becomes nice and smooth.  


Then add it to your soup, along with a couple liters/quarts of water, and stir it up.  

Next, it's time for the cavolo nero.  Cavolo nero is an Italian variety of kale.  In the US, look for an "Italian kale" or "Lacinato kale".  You'll want to cut out the stems and then chop up the leaves.


Stir in the chopped kale and bring the soup to a boil.  Next, stir in about 1/2 pound of crumbled up bread.  (Please, please, PLEASE do not even THINK about using a soft sandwich bread for this!  You need to find a good Tuscan bread or a hearty, dense, rustic type loaf.)  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 2-3 hours.  Stir it every once in awhile and monitor the consistency (which should be thick, but not dry...sort of like a porridge).  You may need to add more water along the way, or - if it's looking too thin and runny - you may need to remove the lid and let it cook until it thickens up.  

This was taken right after the bread was added.  The finished
product will be very thick. (I forgot to take a picture of the finished
product...I got too hungry!)

Serve the ribollita hot, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil.  

Ribollita

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
2-3 red onions or (3-4 medium yellow onions), minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 large carrots, minced
2 large celery stalks, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
8 cups (2 quarts or almost 2 liters) water
2 bunches (about a pound or 1/2 kg) cavolo nero (Lacinato kale), stems removed, leaves chopped
1/2 pound (about 1/2 kg) bread, crumbled (day-old bread is best)

Place 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a deep pot.  Add the onions, garlic, parsley, carrots and celery.  Stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often.  Add a little water if needed, to prevent sticking.  When vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes and stir.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  

Reserve 1 cup of the beans, and stir the rest into the soup.  Puree the 1 cup of beans with 1 cup of water in a food processor or blender until smooth, then add to the soup, along with the 8 cups water.  Stir well.  Add in the cavolo nero and bring to a boil.  Stir in the bread, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring every so often.  Add a little water if needed in order to maintain the porridge-like consistency.  If the soup is too thin, remove the lid and cook until it is thickened.  

Adjust the seasoning before serving and drizzle each bowl of ribollita with a little extra-virgin olive oil.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Estate 2012 (Summer 2012)

I realize that it's September now, but it still feels like summer to me!  Temperatures in Italy are still quite hot (today it hit up to 93 degrees in Signa), so I thought that it would be a good time to do a summertime wrap-up post.

MUSICA (Music)

As usual, summertime provided us with some great music to use as a seasonal soundtrack.  Here are some of the ones that I gravitated towards:

JOVANOTTI - Ti Porto Via Con Me

I absolutely love this song.  Every time I hear it, it reminds me of all the little trips that Simone and I took this summer.  "Ti porto via con me", translates into "I'll take you away with me".  We heard it a lot this summer and it continues to put a smile on my face every time I hear it.  Jovanotti tends to have that effect on me though!


JOVANOTTI - Estate

Yep, another one from Jovanotti.  I can't help it!  His songs are usually so cheerful, and "Estate" doesn't disappoint!  "Estate" is Italian for "Summer", and  you can definitely get the "summer" feel from this song.


MAX GAZZE' - Sotto Casa

I can never not like a Max Gazze' song.  I think it's impossible.  He was the first Italian artist that I really started to follow more than 3 years ago.  His "Sotto Casa" is such a catchy, up-beat tune.  It was a no-brainer to include this in my personal summertime soundtrack!


CHIARA (Feat. FIORELLA MANNOIA) - Passi

Two of my favorite female artists in one song.  "Passi" was one of my 'chill out' songs of the summer.  (Note, this isn't an official video, but one I found on YouTube.)


CIBO (Food)

Summertime is when we enjoy fresh, in-season vegetables as much as possible, and foods that are not so "heavy".

PANZANELLA

Nothing says summer to me more than a nice, cool salad.  In Italy, that means panzanella.  Tuscan bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, parsley, white wine vinegar, and olive oil combine to make an amazingly refreshing lunch!


GRILLED FOOD

Hot summers mean grilling meat in most parts of the world.  Italy is no exception!  Steak, fish, chicken, vegetables and pork all make an appearance on local grills.  We grilled some lovely pork chops earlier this summer, rubbed with fresh sage and rosemary, and accompanied with fresh asparagus cooked in a wonderful olive oil and some cooked apples.  Our neighbors asked what it was we were cooking because it all smelled so delicious!


SAGRE (Food Festivals)

Summertime sagre are everywhere in Italy.  Not a weekend goes by without at least two or three being held somewhere within an hour's drive.  We visited a few this summer: chinghiale (wild boar), porcini (mushrooms), and ranocchi (frog legs).

Fried ranocchi!  Delicious!

FRUTTI DI MARE (Seafood)

Summer means lighter foods, which in my book means fish and seafood.  We at a LOT of mussels this summer.  We would buy them at the supermarket which had them for less than 4 euro per kilogram.  We'd get a kilogram and split them between two meals.  They were super delicious and a great bargain!  We got several different fish over the course of the summer as well, frying some and poaching others.  



GELATO

It's not summer (or fall, or winter, or spring) without gelato!  We enjoy eating gelato year-round (obviously), but in the summer, it's extra fabulous.  Whether visiting a gelateria or buying a tub at the supermarket and eating it at home, it's a summertime staple.

caffè, fior di latte e nocciola gelato
coffee, sweet cream and hazelnut ice cream

VIAGGI (Travels)

It wouldn't be summer without taking a few day-trips!  We hit the road several times this summer.  Here are a few of the places we visited:

LA SPIAGGIA (The Beach)

The summer started out rather cool, but by mid to late June, it was getting rather warm, so we hit the beach.  The Mediterranean is absolutely gorgeous.  I'm not a real beach-lover, but even I really enjoyed digging my feet in the sand or wading out a little and letting the waves lap up against my legs.  The beaches we have gone to have all been extremely clean...and free!  Crowded, but not too bad.  If we lived closer, I'm sure we would have gone more often!

video

SIENA

We visited Siena twice this summer.  We both really love that town and enjoy spending time wandering around it's ancient streets.  The folks there are friendly and there is a real sense of community there.  The hilly streets can be a bit of a challenge on super-hot summer days though!


ROMA

This was the first time that either of us had ever been to Rome!  It was a short, whirlwind trip, but we saw a lot of really great things.  Unfortunately, not nearly as much as we had hoped to see.  Guess that means we'll need to go down again and see the things we missed!  Next time, I think we will try to go when it isn't the busy summer tourist season.  There were a LOT of tourists there!


LE MONTAGNE (The Mountains)

Another good way to beat the heat is to take a drive up to the mountains!  We visited Abetone once and climbed up to the top of the mountain, which rewarded us with spectacular views.  We visited lower mountains near Pistoia on several occasions.  The temperatures are cool and refreshing...and the views are amazing.

The mountains of Pistoia

FESTE (Festivals)

Italy knows how to put on a great festival!  There always seem to be some sort of festival going on every weekend & I've not been disappointed yet!

FESTA MEDIOEVALE MALMANTILE (Medieval Festival in Malmantile)

A medieval festival in an actual fortified medieval village.  It doesn't get much better than this!  Craftsmen demonstrating their skills, vendors displaying their wares, medieval goodies and treats...and did I mention that people still actually LIVE in this castle-like village?

Candle making demonstration at Malmantile

LA FESTA DI SAN GIOVANNI (The Feast of St. John the Baptist)

St. John the Baptist is a pretty big deal in Florence, since he is the city's patron saint.  So what else do they do but throw a huge bash on his birthday!  The day starts with mass, continues with the final of the Calcio Storico (except for this year...it was postponed due to a thunderstorm that passed through the area in the afternoon), and ends with a spectacular fireworks display over the Arno.



FESTA DEL PANE DI PRATO (Festival of the Bread of Prato)

Prato's Piazza del Duomo transformed into a carb-lover's dream this past June with it's Bread Festival!  They put up some ovens and baked fresh schiacciata (and handed out pieces for free).  There were several booths from bakeries and flour mills present, selling and displaying their wares.  I tried so many baked goodies, I ended up skipping lunch!



These are just a handful of things that we did this summer.  Of course, we did more than just the above.  We spent a lot of time walking in Cascine or around other parks and areas around the neighborhood.  We enjoyed the good weather and tried to avoid the bad weather (one day when it was raining buckets in the Florence area, we headed down to Empoli and Vinci just because it wasn't raining there!).  We worked a lot and we played a lot.  That's what I love about Italy!  There is always something exciting going on!