Tuscan Women Cook Celebrates the Beauty of Stale Bread with a Favorite Italian Fall Vegetable Soup Recipe
Italians consider stale bread a preferred ingredient for many popular recipes. The word stale does not conjure up negative connotations in Italy. Rather, cooking with stale bread prevents waste. It is often a better choice in dishes that call for firm, hard bread. When stale bread is toasted, then added to broth, it maintains its shape and absorbs all the flavors, becoming an invaluable addition. Tuscan Women Cook shares a delicious fall soup recipe featuring stale bread that is a favorite of the nonnas of the Tuscan village of Montefollonico, as well as the participants of Tuscan Women Cook.
Like most Tuscan fare, Ribollita dates to the Middle Ages when peasants foraged for whatever food they could find. They crafted a thick, satisfying soup from dried beans, common vegetables from backyard gardens, and stale bread.
“Our first bowl of this hearty soup was prepared by the beautiful, ninety-year-young nonna, Iolanda Marcocci,” says Coleen Kirnan, host, and owner of Tuscan Women Cook. “Iolanda served it al fresco on the terrace outside her kitchen on a long, weathered table overlooking a sweeping Tuscan sunset. It is a rich sense memory we’ll always cherish.”
Ribollita means “re-boiled” in Italian; another way of saying, “wow, this will taste even better tomorrow!” When the bread has an extra day or two to absorb even more of the flavorful broth, Ribollita will thicken and taste creamy.
Feel free to add your favorite vegetables and herbs to this recipe. There are no hard and fast rules for Ribollita, except to reheat and enjoy, day after day. Servings: 8
- 2 cups (14 ounces) dried small white beans, washed
- small piece of Parmesan cheese rind
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery ribs, diced
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Dried oregano
- 3 large Swiss chard leaves, chiffonade
- ½ medium white cabbage, chopped
- 8 pieces dry day old or toasted Italian bread
- Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Olive oil for garnish
Rinse the beans in a colander and pick out any debris or small stones. Place in a medium stockpot and add cold water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Cover and soak overnight.
Drain the beans and cover them with fresh water. Add the Parmesan cheese rind. Over medium heat, simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery (soffritto). Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, the beans, and their cooking liquid. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add the chard and cabbage. Add additional water, chicken or vegetable stock as needed to completely cover the chard and cabbage.
Bring the mixture to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Place a piece of bread in each bowl. Ladle the soup on top of the bread. Top each serving of the soup with some Parmesan cheese, a dash of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper.
Tuscan Women Cook is the unique and popular culinary immersion vacation located in the heart of Tuscany celebrating the food and culture of the Italian region and excursions into the charming village of Montefollonico.
During each day of the week-long program, a group of 16 participants learn to cook authentic Italian recipes from some of the best cooks in all of Italy…the local grandmothers, or “nonnas of Montefollonico.” These extraordinary women teach their cooking classes sharing family recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
For more information on Tuscan Women Cook visit their website, www.TuscanWomenCook.com.
Got a Skillet? Then Let’s Bake a Cake!
Do you have a cast iron skillet among your pots and pans? Most do and have a love/hate relationship with it. The thing is heavy and cleaning it is something else. BUT– the way a cast iron skillet cooks food is wonderful. It holds the heat evenly and in foods like meat, chicken, or cakes and breads, it creates an appealing crust on the outside while the inside is moist and flavorful.
Another good thing about a cast iron skillet is that you can sear food in it on the stovetop, then finish it in the oven. It even transfers a small amount of iron into the food, and that’s a healthy thing. Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen around the body and keeps cells healthy.
Grace O, founder and creator of FoodTrients.com says let’s bake a cake in an iron skillet, especially ones that are a little on the coarse side like cornbread or carrot cake. A cake served from a skillet makes a great presentation. Make certain to spray the skillet with non-stick baking spray and coat with melted butter so your cake doesn’t stick.
Mixed-Berry Grunt | Serves 8
This is a classic American-style dessert that can be made with a variety of berries. Fresh, seasonal berries provide a concentrated source of beneficial antioxidants such as vitamin C and anthocyanins, which improve capillary function in the brain, eyes, and skin. A grunt, sometimes called a slump, combines fruit stew and a fluffy dough topping, in this case, with the tang of buttermilk.
2 lb. fresh mixed berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries
¼ cup sugar plus 2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of Coarse salt to taste
½ cup plus 2 Tbs. low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbs. butter, melted
⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon mixed with 1 tsp. sugar
1. Cook the berries with 1/4 cup sugar, the water, and lemon juice in a cast-iron skillet set over a campfire or medium heat on the stovetop until thickened, 8-to-12 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, and remaining 2 Tbs. sugar. Add buttermilk and butter; stir until a moist dough forms.
3. Spoon 6 dollops of dough over the fruit. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over dough.
4. Cover the skillet tightly with parchment-lined foil. Cook until dumplings are set, and tops are dry, about 20 minutes.
FoodTrients® is a philosophy and a resource dedicated to the foods and rejuvenating nutrients that help us fight the diseases of aging and promote longevity. All of the recipes combine modern scientific research and medicinal herbs and ingredients from cultures around the world. They’re loaded with flavor and superfoods, which promote wellness, increase energy and vitality, improve skin, and help people look and feel younger.
About Grace O
Over a span of 30 years, Grace O has built an impressive record of business achievement, community building, philanthropy, and community service in California. Guided by her spirit of entrepreneurship and building on a model of generosity learned from her family, Grace has spent a lifetime helping people heal through food and medicine. Grace launched FoodTrients.com in 2010 where she shares age-defying superfoods from around the world and creating delicious recipes with them.
Grace is the author of three award-winning cookbooks—The Age GRACEfully Cookbook: The Power of FOODTRIENTS to Promote Health and Well-being for a Joyful and Sustainable Life, The Age Beautifully Cookbook: Easy and Exotic Longevity Secrets from Around the World, and the multi-award-winning Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World.
To see more skillet cake recipes, click here: Got a Skillet? Then Let’s Bake a Cake – FoodTrients