beet greens! you can’t beat a bunch of beets!

If you follow me on instagram or have been reading for a bit- you’ll know I am obsessed with soups. They are my favorite dish to make for myriad reasons. They are affordable, a clever way to use up surplus veg, are extremely nourishing and bring an immense sense of comfort when making them.

If I have someone over to my house for the first time I’ll either make one of 2 things: a ragu’ bolognese or a soup since for me, making food is one of the most sincere love letters one could write to another. So best to make the things which I love the most.

Another reason I love soup (and ragu, too) is they are rather straightforward and easy to make once you have some basics down. You can read my full love letter and basic soup tips to the art of Tuscan soup making HERE. If you’re looking for more personalized cooking help, check out some of Curious Appetite’s online versions of our food tours and culinary lessons, led by our team of experts in Italy.

Apart from the aforementioned geekery, making soups connects me to my adoptive Tuscan roots. I feel connected to Florence and the daily market of Sant’Ambrogio where I lived above in my first 2 years in Italy. My room was street-side and I remember being awoken by the food stands setting up and various vendor’s aspirated Florentine hollers. It was the best alarm clock I ever had.

For me, soups are a service to nostalgia and an ode to la cucina povera, poor cooking or as I’d prefer to refer to as: the art of wasting nothing and utilizing the most readily available, seasonal affordable and nutrient dense ingredients. This is what Tuscan cooking is, for me.

These “povera” techniques got me through my first 8 months living in Italy, jobless, when I was trying to find a way to make my dream happen. 8 years later, I’m feeling as if I am back in that place like many who have temporarily lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 crisis. So I turn to the survival techniques Tuscany taught me, starting with food.

At my local farmer’s market in San Francisco where I am currently “quarantining,” I picked up some beets with the greens- what a deal! You can eat the bulbs (I plan to make baked beets with béchamel sauce) and the greens you can make into a side OR throw into a soup! Like this one! Enjoy!

Recipe: Bean and Sausage Soup with Beet Greens/Zuppa con fagioli, salsiccia e bietole

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 3 medium carrots, 3 celery stalks and beet green stalks coarsely chopped in cubes
  • One large red onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (coarsely chopped)
  • 15oz can of butter beans or cannellini beans
  • 2 fresh mild pork or chicken Italian sausages from your grocer’s butcher counter or from your local butcher (or one of each if you feeling like angering the Italian food police)
  • Beet greens (cut off from a bunch of beets, chop the stems with the carrots and celery)
  • Fennel seeds and chili flakes
  • a small tied bunch of sage and oregano (like a couple oregano twigs and a twig of sage leaves, or you can use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh)
  • a bit of white wine for cooking, good butter and good EV olive oil, sale grosso, cracked pepper
  • Broth or water (I do both- I use an 8oz tetra-pack of broth and filtered water for the rest)
  • Really good parmigiano-reggiano to grate atop
  • optional: a few spoonfuls of tomato puree ONLY if you have some in the fridge leftover and looking for more uses for it as to not let it waste but don’t open up a jar/can otherwise.

Procedure: Chop celery, carrots and beet green stalks into coarse diced pieces and the onion. Heat a blend of 3 tablespoons of butter and olive oil in your favorite soup making pot. Mix chopped veg in a bowl and add to the pot of heated butter/oil. Add the garlic then an intuitive amount of coarse sea salt, fennel seed, chili flake, cracked pepper, tied herbs and cook veggies down. Stir to prevent burning! Deglaze with white wine when starting to stick.

Wash and chop beet greens into short ribbons, then add to pot. Once partially wilted, crumble sausages into pot and mix well. Add another dash of wine. Cook down all together for 5ish minutes until greens are completely wilted then add broth in 4 ounces in at a time as to slowly integrate/build the flavors at about 3-5 minute intervals to your preferred liquid level. Optional: add in a bit of tomato puree before adding the first dose of broth. Once desired liquid level has been reached and before bringing to a bubbling simmer, add a capful of apple cider vinegar for a touch of zing. Then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes to finish.

Bowl up, grate parmigiano atop, crack some more pepper and drizzle on some new EV olive oil to finish.

Wine pairing: A light red like a Nebbiolo d’Alba or Nebbiolo from the Valtellina. Don’t tell Italy, but I paired with a Spanish Tempranillo which was pretty lip smackin’ with feather light tannins, and was from this super cool maker who sources from old vines and does a whole cluster fermentation to preserve the bright, brambly fruit flavors. This was a steal of a deal from Falletti’s in SF for $13! I couldn’t resist the story- making a delicious wine in spite of all odds. In times like this, we need to be reminded of the resilience we are capable of as creative human beings. If this producer could find a way to make it despite environmental odds and vine ravaging bunnies- then so can we.

In your zuppa trust,

Curious Appetite

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