Italian Peasant Soup – Ribollita

My Nonna is a fabulous cook. No doubt about it. Anyone who has been lucky enough to try it would agree with me. As a kid, my brother and I attended Catholic School once a week, usually a Wednesday night. On those days my Nonna would pick us up from regular school, bring us to her house, make dinner and then drive us to the Church in Ladner. Eating at Nonna’s was always a treat. She can cook pretty much anything. Every Christmas Eve we have our Seafood feast, no meat, and I can remember her making Calamari from scratch, with the sink filled with tiny octopus. She is definitely not afraid of cooking, or eating, anythign. A typical European diet, we like food. Period.

We would usually also go to her house on Friday’s for a family dinner with my dad, mom and brother. My Nonna would make dinner, while my Nonno made comments and critques from the couch in Italian. The man never spoke a word of English in my entire 13 years of knowing him. He passed away when I was younger. One thing she made well, besides the amazing homemade pastas, sauces, polenta and other various Italian dishes, was soup. She still cooks, but I get to eat it on a less often basis. This soup reminds me of my childhood. The presense, taste, texture, smell of Romano Beans brings me back to my 12 year old self, sitting in my Nonna’s kitchen with my brother and Nonno devouring a large bowl of soup, my favourite is Pasta E Fagioli, or, pasta with beans. Usually a tomato-ey soup base, a hint of ground beef, romano beans and ditalini pasta, like penne cut up into tiny pieces, but smooth. With a glass of milk of course (Before I realized I had an allergy..) And usually topped it off with a heaping spoonful of freshly grated parmesan cheese. This soup closely resembles my Nonna’s, though nothing will ever replace her cooking. I should really video-tape her one of these days so I can save her recipes for later, though I don’t think she follows a recipe. All by memory, and years of practice.

Soup is a great fall meal, it’s easy and quick to throw together, doesn’t require too much looking after, and can feed a lot of people. Or, in our case, two. We literally ate almost the entire pot in one night. I had three bowls.. It’s all veggies though so it’s ok, right?? Thought so.

Notes: According to Lidia Bastianich, the queen of Italian cuisine, cavolo nero is the traditional green used in Tuscan Ribollita, a hearty vegetable soup thickened with day old bread. Ribollita is Italian for “reboiled.” Ribollita was originally peasant food, invented to stretch leftover minestrone. The soup was so delicious and satisfying, Ribollita eventually morphed into a dish in its own right. Ribollita is a true pantry supper. It begins with soffrito, the Italian base of sautéed onions, celery, carrot, and garlic. Canned tomatoes provide depth of flavor while cannellini beans are a cheap but tasty source of protein. The blistered leaves of cavolo nero contribute texture and a nutty, slightly bitter flavor. Chunks of stale bread added at the end of cooking absorb broth, thickening the soup. This is not a long-cooking soup, but adding ingredients in stages helps to develop flavor.

I left out the bread.. I don’t remember my Nonna putting bread into any of her soups, but they were certainly served with a slice or two. And I added Romano beans instead of Cannellini, and I added white kidney beans as well.

This is definitely a soup that eats like a meal. Hearty and nutricious!

Italian Ribbolita
adapted from here: Food52 

Serves 6 Or two really hungry people..
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 28 ounces (1 can) plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or Italian spices
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch of Kale
  • 15 ounces (1 can) Romano Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounces (1 can) White Kidney, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups water
Directions:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion. Sweat the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Toss in the carrot and celery with a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables 10 minutes.
  3. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl.
  4. Pour the tomatoes (and their juices) into the pot with the thyme, potato, and 3 cups water. Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat down and partially cover with the lid. Keep the soup at a low simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Toss in the kale with another cup of water, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper, I also added ground garlic spice. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the canned beans and continue to simmer the soup 5 more minutes.Serve hot, or warm. It tastes even better the next day!

Mixed Berry Crumble

Every Tuesday Adam and I go to dinner at his parents house. I usually like to bring something for dessert, and it’s most often a new recipe that I want to try out on them. I don’t think they mind being the taste-testers ;) It also gets me off the hook once a week for cooking dinner, which I appreciate =) It gives me time to make things like this, or catch up on my homework that I should probably be doing. The weather was not great this morning, as it was raining and the sky was blanketed in heavy grey clouds. But luckily for me, the clouds began to disappear just in time to snap some photos. I dunno about you, but the time change, having that extra hour, actually made me feel more sleepy? I know we get an extra hour of sleep, but somehow it has just messed me up. Hopefully by this weekend I’ll feel back to normal. Until then, we have this crumble.

Adam’s mom actually makes a really yummy fruit crumble, or crisp, Ta-may-to, toe-ma-toe. However you wish to call it. I haven’t made a fruit crumble/crisp for a while, and it seems to be fitting for a fall dessert. It can be served warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or just on its own.

This weekend we visited the Vancouver Bakers Market for the first time and tried a whole bunch of delicious baking. We’ll definitely be going back for seconds. I also picked up these cute little ceramic serving dishes from Anthropologie and wanted to break them in. Adam suggested shepards pie, and I think that will be making an appearance for dinner one night soon. I just watched Jamie Oliver’s new show Meals in Minutes, in which everything he makes looks delicous, and he made a chicken pie with puff pastry that I think I will have to try out too. I’ve had a package of puff pastry in the freezer since Thanksgiving. Jamie says the store bought stuff is just as good as homemade, and that he wouldn’t take the time to make it at home. So, if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver it’s good enough for me!

I forgot to add soem flour to the berries before topping them with the ‘crumble’ but when I scooped it out it was perfectly thickened on its own. So there, no sugar, no flour added and simply delicious.

I used a mix of blackberries that we picked in the summer and froze, along with some raspberries and strawberries. You can use any mix of berries to make this very easy and pleasing dessert. I think nectarines and blackberries would be delicious. Or an apple crumble!

Mixed Berry Crumble

Ingredients:

1/2 or 1 cup each frozen blackberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries

1 cup rolled oats, not quick oats

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup organic cane sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 stick of butter, chilled and cut into pieces

dash of cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degress.

In two smaller baking dishes, or a few ramekins, divide the berry mixture in the bottom. Place baking dishes on a cookie sheet. This will help if the berry mixture bubbles over while baking, which it most likely will.

In another bowl, combine chilled butter, oats, cinnamon, whole wheat flour and sugars. Combine with pastry cutter, or a fork until the butter is mashed into the oats and sugar to make a crumble-like texture.

Spread half of the crumble mixture over top of the berries in each dish, or dishes.

Place cookie sheet with baking dishes in oven, bake for 30-35 minutes until berries bubble and crumble is browned.

Allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes before serving so berry mixture thickens up. Serve warm, and maybe with a big scoop of ice cream on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

 

I had the baking itch while doing homework this weekend. I skipped out on celebrating Halloween this year because of school. It has officially taken over my life. It’s pretty sad…

Until you bake these cupcakes. ..

Lets just say my baking itch has been scratched.

Because everyone knows you need to take a study break to bake. And these cupcakes were the perfect combination of procrastination and dark chocolate. They are not tooth-hurtingly sweet, they are more of a bitter-sweet combination, with the addition of 80% dark chocolate to the semi-sweet chocolate in the frosting. The frosting is silky-run-through-your-teeth smooth.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes a dozen cupcakes
Adapted from here

Ingredients:

3/4 cup + 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs. good cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 to a 1/2 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (begin with a 1/4, add more depending on consistency)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder  into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the almond milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

3. Distribute the batter, filling each well 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

Adapted From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon boiling water
  • 1 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup best-quality semisweet/dark chocolate chips mix, melted and cooled

Directions

  1. Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved, add espresso powder. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, and confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.
Using a pastry bag, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
The frosting is silky smooth, and holds its shape well. It is not overly sweet, but more bitter-sweet with the addition of 80% dark chocolate chips.
Happy procrasti-baking. Hope you all have a good Halloween =)

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