Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Seasonal tastes

2008 saw one important development in Tuscany: finally the concept of Farmers' Markets has made it to Italy, too. It might seem weird to you, but so far there were little possibilities to snatch up some local, seasonal food! At least in the countryside a significant number of people own a little vegetable garden (or someone in the family does), the harvest from these gardens is usually enriched with produce from the supermarket.

Some local buying groups for local and organic food have led the way over the years, now we finally also have Farmers' markets - only once a month to start with, but we will not complain.

So, what does the winter in Tuscany hold for the consumer? Pretty much the same as in big parts of the US - pumpkins, kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and swiss chard. Some salads and wild greens. To cut a long story short: the perfect ingredients for a nice, hearty soup. The classic in the Florence region is the Ribollita.


A typical dish from Tuscany, more specifically the Florence region, the Ribollita is a hearty soup that was traditionally prepared in big quantities and then reheated the following days. Hence the name “Ri-bollita” (“boiled again”). The following list of ingredients – and their quantity - can be adapted to your personal taste, but bear in mind that stale bread, kale and cannellini beans make the traditional basis of the Ribollita!

Pls. let me know your favourite recipe for Ribollita – just leave it as a comment to this entry! I will raffle off a 250ml bottle of Cosimo’s Extra virgin Olive Oil “Premium Blend” (sold in The Scrumptious Pantry) among those participating! Deadline: February 18th, 2009!

9 slices of stale white bread (best if from a wood fired oven)
10.6 oz. Cannellini Beans
1 head Kale
¼ head Savoy Cabbage
1 bunch Swiss Chard
2 Potatoes
2 Carrots
1 Leek
2 mid size Onions
¼ cup tomato sauce
Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “blend” (in The Scrumptious Pantry)
Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “premium blend” (in The Scrumptious Pantry)
black pepper

Soak the Cannellini beans in two quarts of water overnight. The next day, bring the water and beans to a boil and cook them till done. Puree half of the quantity and add some of the cooking water to lessen the density. In a cooking pan, sauté 1.5 chopped onion and finely sliced leek in Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “blend” till slightly browned. Add the tomato sauce and leave everything to cook about five minutes. Cut kale, cabbage, potatoes and carrots into bite sized chunks and add to the onion & leek mix. Let cook for about 10 minutes before covering it with the remaining water from the beans and boil everything at medium temperature for an hour. Add both whole beans as well as the bean puree, thyme, black pepper and salt to taste. Boil for another 20-30 minutes.

In a soup bowl, layer slices or chunks of stale bread (you can also use fresh bread that you roast briefly in an olive oil lined frying pan) and vegetable mix and give the bread some time to absorb the liquid before serving.

Serve the Ribollita with a dash of Cosimo’s extra virgin olive oil “premium blend”. Some people also like to add some chopped fresh onion.

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