I wish I could say I've been traveling. I haven't been. But I have been busy, and I have not posted in exactly four weeks. And now I feel sort of dirty inside. I'm usually never too busy for my blog, but there is a first for just about everything that you can imagine. Whatever the case, I was M.I.A., and for that I apologize.
This morning turned out to be the perfect day to snatch up the baton once again, because when I opened my eyes a hard winter storm was busily clouting my windows and the soft gray light that seeped into my bedroom suggested that today might be a good day for my favorite stew: Ribollita.
Just to be clear, I take my ribollita seriously. It's not just a stew, no, and it's definitely not a soup. Preparing ribollita is an art form, and eating it takes some serious planning. One does not simmer ribollita like a cheap afterthought to a half sandwich. Ribollita must be respected, and in order to truly appreciate it, it must be allowed to come to fruition for two days. Two. Days.
...Ribollita ain't no joke.
Ribollita is an Italian dish, Tuscan, exactly, peasant, to be sure. There are as many variations of ribollita as yada yada. But it always contains stale bread (toasted), various cruciferae, cannellini beans (not canned, please) and copious amounts of olive oil.
Ribollita translates as 'reboiled', specifically the next day, so the flavors have a chance to meld before you reduce the liquid so that it transmogrifies from a really good soup, to a friggin sumptuous stew. DISCLAIMER: If you have commitment issues, ribollita is not for you.
I began my ribollita with three different types of greens: cavolo, savoy, and Swiss chard, which is in the amaranth family. They are the backbone of this affair. I am fortunate that I bake bread (oi, that reminds me, I need to make a few loaves for my other blog to catch up over there too), because day old is a necessary component to arrive at your acceptable stew. I add pancetta to mine, though ribollita is typically made without. I've made it both ways for years, and either recipe satisfies to the hilt.
Yes, you can eat your ribollita the same day that you make it, and it will be delicious. The leftovers tomorrow, trust, will be heavenly.
Here's your larder:
1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 large bunch Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
1 large bunch cavolo nero, cleaned and chopped
1/2 medium head savoy cabbage, cleaned and chopped
1/2 pound pancetta
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium russets, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
7 cloves garlic; 3 whole for the beans, 4 crushed
1 14.5 oz. can of diced or whole tomato
Reggiano parm, however much
Tons of olive oil
4 thick slices day old sourdough bread
3 fresh bay leaves
1) Cook the cannellini with 3 whole cloves garlic and a bay leaf till tender. Drain, reserving the liquid. Mash half the beans. Set the whole and mashed beans aside.
2) Slice the pancetta into thick batons and Saute in a large dutch oven. Don't let it get too crisp. With a slotted spoon, scoop out the batons and set them aside. Discard the pancetta fat.
3) Add a good glug of olive oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic and carrots and sweat till soft. Add the tomato and cook until it becomes caramelized and sweet smelling.
4) Add the pancetta to the pot, the bean liquid, the cruciferae and amaranth, and some water. I don't know how much. Enough to wilt the greens. Enough so that it looks like soup, yeah?
5) When the greens are wilted, add the mashed beans, potatoes, and the remaining bay leaves to the pot, and simmer this for about an hour, covered.
6) Just before the hour is up, toast your bread and rough chop. Add it along with the whole beans and a glug of olive oil to the pot. Rough chop a gang of fresh herbs and add to the pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. After 30 minutes, using a fine rasp, grate some parm into the pot. However much you want.
7) Serve some now. Of course. It's delish. Refrigerate the rest. And tomorrow....
8) Fill your best cazuela with the ribollita. Slide it into the oven, covered, and turn it on. 375 degrees is cool. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Then remove the cover and bake for another hour (or so) uncovered, until the liquid reduces and the soup become a delicious, savory stew as pictured just above.
9) To serve, drizzle with olive oil, and if you are a truly decadent beast, rasp a little more parm over the top. I know I did.
Mangia bene, vivi felice!