It’s a miserable, gray day here in “sunny” Tuscany. Has been for too long to remember. At least we don’t have snow, we’re not in Washington D.C. or Philadelphia or Boston or New York, and if we wanted to plant peas and garlic, we could, even if it’s just a wee bit too cold and miserable outside.
So rather than plant anything, I decided to scour the refrigerator and make soup for dinner. What was available – or, more correctly – what was in need of cooking before turning to Get Me to the Compost Pile Subito Pronto (Right Away, and f’ing fast) turns out to be a sort of winter salad soup.
Cranked Led Zeppelin I really, really loud, and proceeded. La Repubblica/Espresso (center-left-wing daily newspaper/weekly magazine) promote Led Zeppelin right now (which means you buy the newspaper, get one disc for close to 10 euro); Italian Scallion faithfully buys each offering every week (we’re up to Led Zeppelin III) and we listen to them. Don’t think I’ve ever really, truly listened to them before, maybe because they were always aural backdrop to firing up the bong?
The Three Stooges (Waldo, Lulu, Harry) showed no interest whatsoever in this recipe until Lulu, seeing too many pieces of raw cavolo nero on the kitchen floor, swept up from her throne next to the stove, and ate them all. Will have to give her a tiny bowl of soup tonight. If you don’t plan to listen through all of Led Zeppelin I while cooking the soup, blanch the cavolo nero in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, drain, and then add to soup. Otherwise, it takes a longish time to cook.
Refrigerator Pot-Pourri I aka Winter Salad Soup
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and finely diced
2 dried hot red peppers, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. fennel seeds, mortar’d and pestle’d
½ lb. kielbasa or other smoked sausage in large-ish dice
1 lb. cavolo nero (in the States, it’s called Tuscan kale or, oddly, dinosaur kale) or Swiss chard
(if using cavolo nero, strip the leaves from the ribs, and put the ribs in your compost pile – or feed them to Lulu; if using Swiss chard, strip the leaves from the ribs, chop each separately, and throw them in the pot together)
1 head escarole, coarsely chopped
1 can borlotti beans, rinsed and drained
8 c. water
3 cubes vegetable stock
Pecorino-Romano, grated, optional
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the leek and cook for a few minutes (do not let it brown). Add the hot peppers, garlic, and mortar’d and pestle’d fennel seeds. Stir for a minute or so. Add kielbasa, stir for another minute. Add water, cavolo nero (or chard), water, borlotti beans, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and forget about it. Listen to “Dazed and Confused” and wonder why Led Zeppelin didn’t give the rights to the song to Richard Linklater in his eponymous, wondrous movie in 1993. Why, Robert Plant, did you say no? Jimmy said yes …
Serve in warmed soup bowls, and grate Pecorino-Romano on top.
No, kielbasa is not Italian at all. It’s Polish. But you can find this sausage at the Mercato Centrale in Florence. They call it “kilometro.”
Remember to give Lulu a bowl of soup.
Italian Scallion had three generous helpings, and there’s still plenty left over for several dogs.