Just add grated cheese!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe and have been reluctant to do so amidst all the chef-quality blogs and professional food photographers out there! But I thought hey! why not? There is no end-all, be-all food blog, right? There’s space even for humble soups!

I used to hate soups and hate making them, until I learned some secrets and tips that one of my dear chef friends (Melissa Miranda, who used to cook at Vivanda in Florence and now does fascinating Fillippino/Italian fusion pop-ups via Il Vizietto) and Florentine cooks taught me. Mostly, I learned to bundle aromatic herbs and throw into stock pot and/or Parmesan rinds (Heather of Merry Feast recently wrote a great post about not wasting Parmesan rinds), not tossing kale stalks, using sale grosso (chunkier, kitchen salt) to help make a soffritto sweat out flavor, and if adding dry cannellini beans, to not cook them at a roaring boil otherwise they’ll blister/wrinkle. Also, another trick I love to making a better textured soup is to use an immersion blender to blend a corner of the soup, not all of it but just enough to give a puree’ base.

I recently read an article on the Guardian about preserving food traditions, and it talks about short-cuts in the kitchen being okay, since doing things 100% from scratch is just not realistic enough in today’s world. I agree, especially in this soup case where I used store-bought cooked beans instead of dried beans which can take ages to cook from soaking to boiling. Luckily, in Florence the grocery stores have fresh pre-cooked beans, whereas in Bologna I couldn’t find them. This made me understand that Tuscans are indeed “mangiafagioli”, bean eaters. You can find pre-cooked beans fresh in the fridge section which allows me to avoid sad canned food as I preferred jarred or fresh foods.

I will say the thing I don’t agree with about embracing cutting corners with some pre-made, store bought shortcuts is that this then creates more waste. I.e. these fresh pre-cooked beans I bought came in an un-recyclable plastic container. Whereas if we bought in bulk, we could buy with re-usable bags OR a a small bag of beans producers more beans rather than a cup or 2 of packaged pre-cooked beans. But perhaps that’s the Seattle liberal in me talking. We have to make compromises, and ultimately it’s better to eat home-made food as much as possible.

Well, enough chit chat- here is the recipe!

Tuscan Kale and Chickpea Winter Soup (serves 4)

For Soup Base
Bunch of Kale, stalks removed (but not discarded), chopped into ribbon pieces
2 cups cooked Chickpeas/Ceci/Garbanzo Beans (cannellini beans okay)
Chopped Kale Stalks (pencil eraser sized bits)

Soffritto Vegetable base
one carrot, finely chopped
one celery stick, finely chopped
one yellow onion, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Chili Flakes
Coarse Salt/Sale Grosso
Cracked Black Pepper
Tied bundled of savory herbs to your liking such as sage, parsley, thyme, etc)
Parmesan Rinds

1-1.5-2 liters of Filtered Water (depending on how thick you like your soups)
EV Olive Oil and Butter, quantity depends how rich you’d like it. I.e. 2 tablespoons of each if you’re trying to be lean, or double if you love fat
(I personally like cooking with a mix of butter and olive oil, as olive oil tends to smoke easily)

Once you have your soffritto finely chopped (carrot, celery, onion and parsley), melt some butter and glug a “C” amount of olive oil in a medium stockpot or your preferred soup making pot on the sweet spot between medium to medium high and then add your soffritto. When chopping the soffritto mix, make sure all pieces are equally finely chopped. After 30 seconds to a minute, add about a half tablespoon of sale grosso, cracked pepper and a teaspoon of chili flakes, or less if you are sensitive to spicy heat. Let sweat/soften for a few minutes, stir here and there as to not let burn/stick, then add the chopped kale stalks. Add another glug of olive oil if necessary and/or a knob of butter if it starts to stick/seems to dry. The soffritto base should lightly glisten with oil. Soften for another 3-5 minutes.

Add Chopped kale and let it wilt, then add half the water and the optional bundle of aromatic herbs and/or parmesan rinds. Let simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes then add the remaining water, cooked beans, cover, reduce heat to the soft spot between low-medium or medium if your stove isn’t crazy high fire like mine and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes total. About halfway to the finish, get an immersion blender, tilt the pot to the side and blend a small part of the soup until you get a lightly pureed base, careful not to blend the whole soup. Let simmer covered for another 10-15 minutes. Serve in a bowl, with freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Grana Padana on top.

Easy, right?

Wine pairing: Light new red wine without much structure or a dry white wine like Soave or Lugana.

In your soup trust,

Curious Appetite

For more of my posts related to soups and getting soups in Florence, check out these posts:

In search for the best Ribollita in Florence  and The Art of Tuscan Soup Making 

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