Wandering mind

WanderersSoup3

So. It appears I quite like eating biscuits from the package. Not such a low, as it surprised me nearly gleefully. Who knew I’d soon be in the checkout line at the grocery store with only a semi-carefully selected chocolate bar in hand. It’s best to say I’m celebrating the time, and the time calls for this. My own version of Moroccan mint tea steeping, a packaged sweet, be it biscuit or chocolate unraveled nearby, and under the pressing glare of three lamps light. I have been nose deep in a crash course in what is Moorish cuisine. November has been a grave month for cooking but full of imagery.

Saffron infused rice. (Goodness, and it may stay an image until I can just go on with it and buy a few pinches!) Almonds, garlic and stale bread blitzed until becoming a creamy Ajo Blanco and then dotted with bursting muscat grapes. Sunset pink sherry vinegar both sweet and sour doused on lightly cooked white flakey fish. Pomegranate molasses spread upon dark braises and roasts, perhaps duck! Spices like sweet and smoky paprika, citrusy and earthy cumin and peppery caraway. Dried citrus and apricots pridefully standing on a serving platter or stirred into Asure (barley pudding). Ground almonds, cane sugar, nose curling cinnamon bound with pork lard baked into a humble batch of cookies known as Polvorones.

I’ve felt completely in awe of every dish. The Moors have cultivated an elaborate peasants cuisine. Every ingredient comes from the fruits of their own, or their neighbors labor. The food is balanced, dotted with delicacies, loving and humble. Resulting in the most satisfying meal, I’m partial to think. There is an emphasis on spices, fruits and herbs. And as the summer became fall and fall is becoming winter, the juicy crunch of a fruit is still at foot.  Paired with a warming spice or sharp herb my metabolism is radiating. I can still wear a dress and slippers about the house, the only thing  different is warming foods.

As I read
I daydream
As if I were there
An assistant to the director
We conjure magic and read minds

And then of course it being read

Being a cookbook

It’s us at the table, but every recipe looks good!
It’s a big table

Closed the book, picked up a few magic tricks
And please won’t you come for dinner?

It’s December now and I cooked my first two Moorish dishes. Wanderers Soup and a Quince Jello Jelly, recipes from le grand duo, Sam and Sam Clark. The couple and talented chefs wrote two cookbooks based upon their documentations through Moorish villages populating Southern Spain, Northern Africa and Morocco. And then thirdly, this one, Moro East. Dedicated to the Manor Garden Allotment in East London. Where the two learned to grow variety crops (from peas and salad greens, to artichokes, sorrel and bundles of herbs) amongst the help and knowing hands of their British, Greek, Turkish, West Indian, Kurdish, Polish and Italian-born neighbors. This book is dedicated to the people of the allotment, the allotments itself, and the British grown vegetables and fruits which have sprouted there and lavish every dish.

I can’t help but think of Mary, when the robin bird helps her find the way into The Secret Garden. Tending and then without realizing, blooming herself too.  

WanderersSoup

Wanderers Soup

today I’m in my mother’s wooden sole brown clogs.
cooking her soup.

When I picked up the chorizo for this dish, it came in a nice ring, like a hoop earring or a fine christmas ornament. Good for fun, not good for you if there are dogs.

serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium potato, or six smaller ones (about 600g) peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 or 2 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 800ml chicken stock
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 4 handfuls (about 200g) or foraged greens (a mixture of sorrel, rocket, dandelion, parsley), I used spinach or pea shoots from the farmers market, washed and chopped
  • 150g cooking chorizo, diced small (the best part if I may say, of the dish!)

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with a four fingered pinch of salt and soften, cooking for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Done when the onion is golden. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the potatoes, garlic, and bay leaves along with another pinch of salt. Place the lid atop and allow to cook gently, for about 25 minutes. Or until the potatoes are tender. And again, stirring every so often, to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the potatoes are tender and glossy, plump with butter and olive oil, add the stock and a few grates of nutmeg. Now bring to a boil, and then a simmer for 5-10 minutes. It is almost lunch time! Turn the heat off, remove the bay leaves and whizz with a handheld blender, (a processor will do finely as well) until very smooth. At this point stir in your leafy greens. Meanwhile fry your chorizo in the remaining tbsp of olive oil, until crispy in parts and cooked through all over. Check the soup for seasoning, dot into bowls and spoon the chorizo and it’s spitting red oil dressed atop.

WanderersSoup2

QuinceJelly

Quince Jelly

serves 4

  • 2 medium quince (about 400g)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 125 g sugar
  • 4cm cinnamon stick
  • 700ml water
  • 12g leaf gelatin

Peel the quince and with a sharp knife cut each into 8 long wedges, coring from each wedge. Toss the slices in lemon juice as you go in the saucepan you will used to keep them from turning brown. When all are done, top up the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, sugar and water. Covering with a tight fitting lid, place over a simmer, the lowest heat possible, and stew gently for the next 2 ½ hours. When the quince is done the liquid will be a rosy pink, the quince will have matured a number of shades and be tender to the bite. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the wedges into a jelly mold or a favorite bowl. Strain the liquid, measuring out 500ml, discarding the rest (or saving for soon to discover clever use as I like to do). Soak the gelatin in cold water for about three minutes, squeeze dry and stir into the hot syrup until completely melted. Pour over the quince wedges and leave to cool, followed by refrigerating overnight. Serve in the bowl or allow to stand in hot water for a few seconds before turning out onto a plate. I serve mine by the great spoonful with softly whipped cream.

QuinceJelly2

there once was a pear tree which who turned water into honey
thankful for the gifts the villagers brought her roses
in which
she gave them a quince

 

Duck, duck, soup!

BeansMozzarellaSoup1

What’s in the fridge! That nice jar of dijon mustard. An indulgent buy of well salted capers imported from Sicily. The tin of anchovies which seemingly keeps on lasting. They are, preserves aren’t they? And that bouncing ball of mozzarella which was meant for something…but it’s lost on me now. Ah, and of course the rocket!

Received from a farm which sets up a stand nearby on the weekends. When I came about the tangled bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the Italian rocket I’ve read about before. Wild and untamed. One rocket leaf, spun out from the bunch, unruly in formality and lengthy as my forearm. I can already smell the spice, similar to a juicy radish. After a sort of coiling, it’s in my mouth and I’m sure it’s leaning on the air of an herbs vanity.  Proud to be rocket! It’s lovely and I buy a big bag.

How charmingly simple this recipe could be. A peasants fare indeed, as I did no shopping. My bag of rocket was priorly enjoyed on its own, well dressed in olive oil and flaky salt. Until a morning, flipping through cookbooks, a recipe found for my bouncing ball of nearly forgotten mozzarella. And perhaps, my prideful rocket.

Mozzarella, Borlotti, and Wild Garlic Green Sauce, as says Ducksoup.
Mozzarella, Kanderly Yellow Eye, Rocket Green Sauce, I say.
It’s what I have. And it’s close enough.

Mozzarella, beans and herb sauce soup

  • 125g cooked beans, I had on hand Kanderly Yellow Eye
  • Handful of herbs, mine being rocket, not quite an herb but this one is nearly (others might be parsley, mint, wild garlic or a combination of the bunch)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • ½ tsp capers
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • Small garlic clove, grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 mozzarella ball, about 150g
  • Flaky salt and black pepper

Warm the beans and their cooking liquid in a pan over low heat. Put the chopped herbs, anchovies, lemon zest, capers, mustard, and garlic into a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil and bind everything together, with a good stir. Stir your now green sauce into the beans and warm through, only taking a minute. Pour into your lunch bowl, placing a torn ball of mozzarella atop. Drizzle with more olive oil, flaky salt and black pepper. Serve with a soup spoon!

BeansMozzarellaSoup2

 

when it faded
she grasped dearly
it’s shape missing

without a hand to hold
hands cold

and through the window the sun
stroked her cheek
warm, there
and it’s growing
a sparkling glimmer in her eye

a little spot inside of her
warm, right there
and it’s glowing

without a hand to hold
a little spot inside of her
warm

Life by coffee and sleep

TrevisoRisotto8

Ten days without coffee felt like a bear’s winter hibernation. It’s the season and I seemingly never miss a clean opportunity to get sick. Slightly out of commission.

Cup of joe number one since the crash. At 3pm. Splendid! I’m upright, and thinking about what I’ve done this week. What I’ll do from this cup, onto the next one, probably tomorrow a.m. And so! It’s been a week of discovering the famed New York dollar slice. That you can indeed just order a side of plain white rice at the local Chinese haunt without a batting eye. And, a resurgence of a famed banana shake from my archives. Which I will fondly share the recipe. It’s one I learned from a Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads. She was lovely.

I did happen to make one nice dish during the down time. A simple one which I had all the ingredients to already, but one. Being the season it wasn’t hard to find. Treviso risotto.  A woody amber kick coming from a glass of dry vermouth, and a roundness by parmesan and butter. I read today an article about Japanese ikebana. An art much to do with opposing characters, harmonized. Could treviso risotto be a good meal example for that? Bitter yet creamy. Hm. It’s a thought! A bit of a silly one at that. It got me thinking about making life more like ikebana. The Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads.

Green Banana Shake

  • 1 banana, best if frozen (adds creaminess!) at least for a few hours before blending
  • 2-3 juicy dates
  • palmful of cashews, raw
  • 1 small spoonful of vanilla paste
  • 2 big handfuls of kale, removed from their stems
  • 6-8 cubes of ice
  • Splash of nut milk

Blend all together until smooth. Serve in tall glass.

 

TrevisoRisotto6

Treviso Risotto

A recipe from the great chef Russell Norman. His book Polpo is a favorite of mine. One I slip out when I’m looking for a singular example of a fine ingredient, he probably has it. His book is a dedication to his restaurant in London, but also a definition of his experiences at aperitivo hour in Venice, Italy.  

  • 1 liters of stock, be it beef, chicken or vegetable
  • 50g butter, room temperature
  • Small sprig of rosemary
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 150g risotto rice, carnaroli is best
  • Flaky salt
  • Half a glass of dry vermouth
  • 250g Treviso radicchio, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 30g grated parmesan

To begin, bring a pot of the stock up to a gentle simmer on the back burner. On the front burner melt two-thirds of the butter in another pot. Add the rosemary and swig around a bit for a minute only to flavor, and then remove the sprig and discard.

Add the chopped onion, sweating slowly until glossy and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.

Now add the rice, being sure to coat in the butter. Allow to toast lightly, you’ll be able to smell it if you stick you nose over the pan. Add a pinch of salt, and stir for just a few minutes until the toasty smell is slightly present.  

Now is the time! Add the vermouth and lift any sucs sticking to the pan. Sizzling away until absorbed and steamed off. Add the first ladleful of stock, just enough to soak each grain, the mixture should be still gently simmering. Add the treviso now, reserve a small palmful for the final mix.

Slowly now, add the stock, one ladleful after the last has been absorbed. About 15 minutes. The risotto is done when a grain is chewy and soft on the outside, but the inside hull has a tiny al dente bite to it. Remove from heat, fold in the last knob of butter, parmesan and the palmful of treviso leaves set aside. Cover and leave for a few minutes before serving.

TrevisoRisotto5

TrevisoRisotto1

TrevisoRisotto4

Grilled Treviso

And if in the end. You can’t be bothered to make risotto. Halve your treviso lengthwise, rub with olive oil, slipping into the inner leaves. Set on a hot cast iron pan, or grill, and cook undisturbed for about four minutes on both sides. Serve, sprinkled with flaky salt and a few drips from the old balsamic bottle. Paired nicely with a bouncing ball of soft mozzarella dressed in more sweet olive oil and flaky salt.

TrevisoRisotto2

And now all I’m craving is to watch Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden. Until next time! Hopefully sooner than the last!

TrevisoRisotto7

Porridge cake

Porridge Cake 2

Once I stood about the stove every morning to put on a pot of porridge. I’d dress it up with a spoonful of thick and tart yogurt, some honey and pumpkin seeds. If I made a jam I’d swirl that in, drop in a few toasted blanched almonds. A lovely bunch which I’ve found  imported from Sicily. And when my jam pot was all up, I’d return back to the dollop of yogurt. I won’t deny this breakfast. I know which oats I like. And I can grab them around the corner. But when I started working earlier, I found I didn’t have as much time at home to put on a pot, be sure it doesn’t burn, then scrub my pot clean after  minutes at the table sharing breakfast with my bird. Not to mention it was earlier! “Maybe it would be nicer to have this breakfast a few hours later.” One thing I’ve learned about myself, (great indeed, it’s wonderful to know something about your character!) I am not one for ambient room temperature porridge!

And then I learned about a cooks breakfast. Among the many places which I have worked, I’ve had the opportunity to catch onto, I think a rather intimate part of one’s day being, breakfast. Another one for character. I love learning what a person most often likes to eat at during these usually solely morning hours. It is intimate, isn’t it? A cooks breakfast usually take a little bit from the day’s haul without being much of an impact on production at all. It’s almost unnoticed really. Unless somebody is experimenting. In such a memorable case; we had scrambled eggs. The most softly cooked. Curdling slowly in a large bowl set over a simmering pot as a bain marie. A large slab of focaccia out of the oven, spread thickly with the egg clouds. Salt, olive oil. Wahla! A more usual breakfast was more to the likes of a steaming demi baguette along with an apple received from a delivery. A buttery and nutty scone from the bake off paired nicely with a thick and bitter shot of espresso. Or in the savory kitchen, a bundle of just blanched tender greens tangled atop a thick cut of bread dosed in the good olive oil and salt. All being pieces for tonight’s dinner service. Japanese rice cooked for today’s lunch, spooned into a small bowl along with a softly cooked egg, a good squeeze of the smoky and very sweet soy sauce and a pivotal pinch of togarashi chili powder.

I quite liked the convenience of these breakfasts. Nearly no dishes. At an opportune time of hunger.

Porridge Cake 1

During this time I was also reading quite heavily only the backs of Italian cookbooks where the cakes lie. Italian cakes seem to be not very sweet and Italians seem to love these types of cake for breakfast. Breakfast, more likely at the time for a mid morning snack with coffee to get on with it until a more lengthy lunch, a more lengthy dinner to come. I loved this. And adopted it nearly immediately after I got a few cakes under my belt, in which I will share them all in ongoing posts.

This particular cake, received from one of Marcella Hazan’s books, felt quite like a fall breakfast. ½ a cup of sugar for a cake, perplexing. Cooked polenta. Dried fruits and nuts mixed in. “It’s porridge isn’t it?” And it is, nearly. A cake with its own category. And a delicious one at that. Delightfully refined, thanks to thoughtful ingredients. Being a touch sweet, nourishing, and overall a nice combination of flavors and things. Quite like my stovetop porridge I thought. But this one is just as nice too at ambient room temperature. The next day, the day after that. In a little baggy I’ve been munching on it on my train ride to work. Along with coffee from the place down the street from my apartment. It makes for a lovely, easy morning. I look forward to a more lengthy dinner with my bird later on. Happily he’ll stand on my shoulder as we wash the dishes without much of any rush.

Porridge Cake 3

Porridge Cake

  • 1 cup coarse polenta
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dried figs, quartered
  • ⅓ cup muscat raisins
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts, I prefer to toast them!
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter, plus more for buttering the pan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour, using a freshly milled flour, all the better!

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Begin by first buttering well about a 9 inch cake tin and then lining with flour. Be sure to tap out any excess over the bin! Go onto measuring the ingredients. Combining the dried fruits, toasted pine nuts, fennel seeds and sugar into a cereal bowl. The butter resting on the knife in which you cut from the block. The egg nearby and a cup of flour set into a bowl all for itself.

At the stove bring 2 cups of water up to boil. Pour the polenta in a steady stream through your fingers as you mix about any potential stubborn clumps forming with a handy wooden spoon. When all is in, continue stirring just for a few more seconds, the polenta doesn’t need to be on the stove long. Then add the olive oil and a pinch of salt, another few stirs and take the pot off heat.


Mix in your bowl of nuts and bolts, followed by the egg and butter. And when all mixed in, add the flour. Only mixing until your cake batter is just combined. Pour and smooth into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan until warm, then invert onto a wire rack and serve as it still cools with a cuppa tea. This cake is lovely at room temperature, grasped in hand as you run out the door tomorrow morning.

Porridge Cake 4

Country salad

Country Salad 2

October, October.

What grows in October?

To be honest. I don’t really know. What seems like October might be a hearty salad. Enough to keep me warm. Enough to still keep me light on my toes without a desperate need for a hibernation nap.

Just a pot, a heavy pan, a cutting board and knife. My ingredients gathered about, in and out of the sink. Without having made this salad before, it already feels quite familiar. Being I’ll just wash and trim, toast, blanch and dice. Methodical and quiet. Quite nice to feel uninterrupted fixing lunch as more of a means to get on with the day than to be startled by sizzling action and unknown outcomes. One day, I’ll be at peace with something more,  but I can quite confidently confirm, blanching, toasting and dicing is no problem had by me.

Country Salad 1

Bring a large pasta pot full of plenty of well salted water up to a boil, blanch the cauliflower pieces until soft, but not mushy. It should hold its sturdy shape, but be soft enough to chew without resistance (and digest!)  Followed by the potatoes, blanched in the same manner. Meanwhile toast the walnuts in a heavy pan until fragrant. And as everything cools, chop the ingredients and toss everything together. “Wahla!” I love to say.

This salad idea came from one of Lidia’s books. She goes into such detail as to where her dish ideas originate from among her sightful travels. This one felt so familiar to me. I would have believed her if she first said she traveled to the great north east of America and discovered this apple, cheese and cauliflower salad! Not far off? But quite. She came about this dish in one of the very northern regions of Italy known as Trentino-Alto Adige. A place both containing Italian and German language and culture. The most hearty nonna’s cooking I can imagine! This is the place where Italy’s most versed apple farmers are. Growing thousands of varieties, in the same plot of land that has been spouting apples since the middle ages. Lidia even came about a spaghetti tossed in a shredded apple tomato sauce! (Which she found marvelous! I’m still skeptical, but won’t knock it till it’s tried.) Another product made from the land as old as time, is Asiago cheese. Made from cattle grazing on the lush pastures of Asiago High Plateau.

So behold the great country salad. A simple gesture for lunch. I think the people of Trentino-Alto Adige were thinking; “What’s available? And what will keep me warm, yet light on my feet?”

Country Salad 3

Country Salad

serves many many many, (times over).

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into pieces
  • 4 small red potatoes (or a 4 handfuls of baby red potatoes)
  • 1 bundle of radish, washed, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 apples, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 8 oz asiago, diced
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 large handfuls of Italian parsley, chopped
  • large pinch of salt
  • ¼ c extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp sherry vinegar

Begin by washing the ingredients which need a good rinsing and scrub. Meanwhile a large pot of well salted water is coming up to a boil. When ready, submerge cauliflower pieces into the pot. After about five minutes when soft but not mushy, remove the cauliflower and place in a colander to drain and cool down. In the same fashion, blanch the potatoes. Removing when soft but not mushy, then placing in colander to drain. Dice into chunks when cool enough to handle. Continue on by dicing the radish, asiago, apple, onion and parsley. Meanwhile toasting the walnuts in a heavy pan until fragrant. They color quick so don’t stray far from the happening by keeping your nose up. Toss everything together in your biggest bowl, along with four fingered pinch of salt, sherry vinegar and olive oil.

Country Salad 4

Crispy leaves and shively prunes

A Flicker in October

The wick begins to pool
one leaf falls
the wax begins to drip
a crunch under foot
my cheeks begin to glow
this precious time
before the wick runs out

Prune Loaf 3

Prunes! Glorious jammy things. Juicier than an apricot, whose color is alluring, but it’s the prune I find most satisfying of the dried fruits. A thin protective skin, just barely sealing a smoothing prune cream. Confoundedly a flavor both of vanilla and milk chocolate. And even a fragrance faintly reminiscent of orange blossom. Glorious prunes!

The leaves are beginning to turn in New York. Yellow and crisp. A few scattered underfoot, one crunching, another saved inside a book. The sun is still warm to the bone, and it’s…quite. Where might be the flock of finches whom lived in the tree outside my window be? The window unit is unplugged and the floor fan switched off. This precious, and perhaps introspective time!

I was a thinking about what I might like to eat for breakfast during the next few days, while I had the time, and prunes showed up first in mind. The first place I looked for inspiration was a big cookbook, humorous and light, but each recipe a rather serious matter. Fairly charming that such a talented and experienced chef wrote a book for us at home, reading in a way that feels, well quite doable. Needing only the right ingredients and a good dose of confidence. One day I’ll get to that warm pig’s head… ! Seemingly, Fergus Henderson loves prunes too. And seemed to crave the same sort of pruney breakfast loaf as I did. A prune loaf with brown sugar and molasses, extra vanilla for a lift of fragrance, and then quite a buttered tin – yielding a crust buttery and textured. The heavenly heavily buttered tin is a small trick I learned in school, beurre en pommade, a consistency mayonnaise like, which when heavily lining a tin makes the most lovely cake and loaf crusts.

So here is a slightly adapted recipe of Fergus Henderson’s le grand prune loaf. Fit for even those who may think they might not like a shriveled prune.

Prune Loaf 1

Prune Loaf

  • 4 ½ oz softened (soft by leaving out, mine usually overnight) unsalted butter, and extra for greasing the pan
  • 4 ¾ oz light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 oz flour, plus a five fingered pinch for dusting the pan
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp black molasses
  • 3 tbsp prune juice, mine coming just from my soaking liquid of tea and prunes.
  • 3 tbsp full-fat milk, obtained at the coffee shop, thank you baristas, a generous slice coming your way!
  • 20 oz prunes, and strips of lemon peel, soaked in two bags of black tea, mine being a rose like blend, soaked overnight or least an hour before.

Rummage about for a loaf tin, mine being a tube pan. With your softened butter, brush heavily into pan. Dust with a bit of flour and tap the excess out. Set aside and get on with the mix.

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, paddle the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the beaten eggs slowly, which will help prevent a curdle. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and mix in. Next add the vanilla, molasses, prune juice and milk.  

Fill your prepared tin with half of the mix, then lightly pressing in the prunes. You’ll notice it’s quite a lot of prunes, it is, a prune loaf! Spoon in remaining mix and lightly spread about evenly. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chill stops the prunes from sinking to the bottom during the bake.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert onto a rack, remove tin, and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.

**Fergus Henderson mentions a mist in his recipe which is 2 ½ oz of prune juice, heated in a saucepan until it starts to boil. Off heat, ¾ oz of Vieille Prune (prune brandy) is stirred in. Two spoonfuls of mist is soaked into a slice before serving along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Prune Loaf 2

Ribollita for winter and summer

Ribeooohllittah, ribeooohllittah! I hum as I energetically dice my soffritto (a marriage of vegetables creating a base, most often, red onion, carrot and celery). The first time I had ribollita soup was probably at a high school football game. Odd I know, but our winter sports games had soups available at the concession. At the time, there was an Italian theme going, and soup was always available. I’ve cycled through them all, ultimately deciding the Italian wedding would be my go to order. Yes, at a football game. Anyway, the ribollita, well, wasn’t very memorable. Except in the sense I decided I didn’t very much like the soup. Being sort of a lip staining tomato water mixed with pre-cooked vegetables and tufts of bread. And so, that was the last time I’ve ordered ribollita.

Until it was bestowed upon me. I was working at a flour mill, when the chef, mostly nose deep in his own creations, handed me a small bowl of soup. Claiming it to be “Ribbeeohllittah”! And it was magic. The single best spoonful of soup I’ve ever had. I stopped what I was doing and gobbled up my five spoonfuls more. I asked him to show me how to make it, and ever since it’s been the soup I continuously crave and fix at any flicker of a crisp wind.

It wasn’t until recently, at a lovely cookery bookstore, that I came across two interesting books.  The food being from a foreign land, but the ratios of ingredients and method of cooking, seemed strangely familiar. I bought both books in haste. Now another cuisine I was fascinated by! With some reading later on, I learned that the authors, Sam & Sam Clark, began their chef training at the helm of The River Cafe in London. (A fiercely influential seasonal restaurant, open now for 30 years now, that draws inspiration from regional Italian cuisine.) The familiarity of the two books I stumbled upon contained honest, humble, and fulfilling recipes from a land that I didn’t have much knowledge about before, (and still have much to learn, but a sense of incentive now) but after flipping through, I not only felt a little bit closer to the true cuinse of the Moorish villages in Spain, North Africa and Morocco, but also little deeper understanding of the people too. This style of cooking, showcased in fine dining restaurants swept the world, thanks to people like Ruthie Rogers and Rose Gray, Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli.

Sam and Sam Clark shared their recipe for summer ribollita. And it was right then, as quickly as I sent my eyes left to right making sense of their recipe, that I internally revolutionized that a cook has the power to make a cuisine of their own, a storyline, from all they have met and then applies.

I can’t deny a thick soup, full of warm vegetables, beans and bread to fill me up when the air gets crisp, or maybe in San Francisco, where even the summer nights might ask for a sweater. So here are two recipes for ribollita, the one I learned at the flour mill. And Sam and Sam Clarks of Casa Moro in London.

Ribollita

  • soffritto (very, very finely diced and equal parts, 1 1/2 red onion, 4 medium carrots and 4 celery stalks, perhaps 3 cups per vegetable)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 28oz canned peeled tomatoes, preferably the san marzano variety
  • garlic clove
  • white wine, a forgotten, opened bottle from the back of your fridge
  • a small bunch of lacinato kale, also known as tuscan kale, stemmed and shredded roughly
  • 16 oz canned borlotti beans
  • black pepper
  • 28 oz canned cannellini beans
  • block of parmesan with rind on, nutty and buttery in flavor.
  • a few days old loaf of sourdough bread, preferably one made from a cold fermentation process, more flavor!
  • a glug and a drizzle from your nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil

Soffritto! Finely dice red onion, carrots and celery, as small as you can go, involve yourself! This is an important step because it will lead to a, I mean it, luxurious mouthfeel. Scoop up your vegetables, and place in a wide and heavy pot. Drench with nice, but not too nice, extra virgin olive oil, about two cups worth. Followed by and a four fingered pinch of salt. Let cook at a medium low temperature, uncovered, slowly the water contained in the vegetable will steam out and and be replaced by luscious olive oil. Stir regularly. If the pot becomes suspiciously dry, and you start to hear sizzling, dig out that opened, almost forgotten, bottle of white wine hiding in the fridge. Using just a few drops and a few scapes at a time to deglaze and lift the sucs forming below your mountain of vegetables. Continue this process until the vegetables are plump with olive oil, and completely tender. About 30 minutes.

Add a garlic clove that has been crushed with the side of your knife, and the tin of tomatoes, using a whisk, sort of crush the tomatoes right in the pot. When the tomatoes smell roasted, add a good pour of that wine wine, about 1 cup, followed by handfuls of stemmed and torn lacinato kale. Sir together for a minute or three and then fill up your tomato tin with water and pour into the pot. Let simmer and bubble for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make a borlotti bean puree, by placing entire can, bean cooking liquid and all, into a blender along with lots of black pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. While blending, stream in olive oil, about ½ a cup. Pour this into the simmering pot along with the whole cannellini beans, spooning in some of the cannellini beans cooking liquid too. Depending on how much liquid you want to add. Ribollita is about intuition! Chuck in your parmesan rind. This gives off a nutty undertone note to your soup,(and to be honest I kind of love gnawing at it if I do find it bendy and melting in my soup bowl). Begin tearing bread, using mostly crumb, some crust too, adding to the pot by the handful. Stir and squish the bread with the back of your wooden spoon against the pot. The goal is to attempt to liquefy the bread, Cook along, stir along, press the bread against the rim along. When all is married and soft, lacinato kale, so tender giving no resistance back when you chew, the bread – liquified, and the soup thick. Don’t hesitate to add a cup of water or bean cooking liquid, more or less if you think, “too thick”! About 30 minutes.

Finish with a light glug of your nicer bottle of olive oil, cranks of more than you might expect of black pepper and a blanket of shredded parmesan. Stir and voila! Ladle into shallow bowls, with a dusting more of olive oil, black pepper and parmesan.