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Recipe

Main Dish






Twice-cooked florentine vegetable soup

Biba Caggiano
Biba Restaurant, Sacramento


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Ingredients

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 pound cavolo nero, Tuscan black kale
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely diced
3 celery stalks, coarsely diced
1 large boiling potato, peeled and coarsely diced
1/2 small Savoy cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
Green leaves from 1 bunch Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
3 cups chopped, canned Italian plum tomatoes with their juice
1 1/2 cups cooked white cannellini beans with their cooking liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 thick slices, 1-to-2-day-old crusty Italian bread, broken into chunks
2 additional tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Heat 1/3 cup of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for eight to 10 minutes, stirring, until the onion is pale yellow and soft. Add the garlic and parsley and stir for about one minute.

Remove the kale leaves from the stalks and wash them well under cold running water. Add the kale to the pot together with all of the other vegetables, including the tomatoes and beans. Season with salt and pepper then add just enough water to cover all of the vegetables by about two inches.

Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pan. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring from time to time, until vegetables are soft, almost mushy.

Turn the heat off, stir the bread and remaining olive oil into the soup and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The soup is even better if it is prepared up to this point several hours or a day ahead so the flavors will combine and the soup will thicken.)

A few hours before serving it, put the soup back on low heat, and simmer it for another 30 minutes, stirring often with a long wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve hot with a few drops of olive oil.

"In Florence, no respectable trattoria would be caught dead without this famous twice-boiled vegetable soup. A soup that combines most of the winter vegetables, day-old bread and luscious olive oil is transformed by its long, slow cooking, into a rustic delight. While everyone in Tuscany will tell you that the vegetables used in this soup change according to the area, the season and the mood of the cook, they will also tell you that four ingredients--white beans, cavolo nero, Tuscan kale and one-to-two-day-old Tuscan bread--are essential to the legitimacy of this soup. Fortunately for us, today we can easily find cannellini beans in most Italian and specialty food stores and thanks to two young Italian entrepreneurs, Lucio Gomiero and Carlo Bascolo, founders of European Vegetable Specialties, who in 1988 began growing Tuscan kale in Salinas. Today we can also find cavolo nero, a truly Tuscan vegetable."--Biba Caggiano



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