Day 303–Ribolita–Italian Twice Cooked Soup

White Cannellini beans

Ribolita uses white beans and leftover bread as thickeners, instead of cream.

Italian cooks are amazing. So many Italian recipes are born of necessity, frugality and making the most of whatever you have handy. And when you have a little of this and a little of that, plus some leftover bread, this Italian soup recipe is the bomb. Why “twice cooked?” This is one of those awesome recipes that tastes better the day after it is made, so you cook it once, park it in the fridge, then re-boil (ribolita) the soup the next day for a feast.

We’re in definite soup weather. Although our days are mostly sunny and cool, our evenings have been pretty brisk. For me, that is weather just calling out for soup. Ribolita is one of my all time favorite soups to make, especially when I have winter vegetables in the refrigerator and need to do something with them. Quick. When I make this, I chop all the vegetables first and have them ready to go. At the start, it seems like my counter is overflowing with veggies–the kale seems to really like taking over everything. It’s so good that I let it. As I continue to add ingredients, the pot gets to the point of brimming and the whole kitchen smells amazing. Gradually, I find my counter again.

Did I tell you this makes a ton of soup? I haven’t exactly weighed it, but I’m pretty sure it’s near a ton. So be prepared to freeze some unless you have a big family or some potluck to go to. And don’t be intimidated that this has a lot of ingredients–most of them are vegetables that you can find at your local farmer’s market this time of year. You do not need to serve anything with this soup. It is a complete meal all by itself!

Ribolita

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into rough chunks
  • 3 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 c. green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 can)
  • 12 slices French bread, lightly toasted (or slice it and leave it to dry overnight)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for serving
  1. Place the beans, broth, garlic, sage, bay and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove 1 cup of the beans and discard bay and sage leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree the reserved beans and set aside.
  3. In another large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook about 10 minutes, until transparent. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, Swiss chard and kale. Stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste.
  4. Cook vegetables until greens have wilted (about 20-30 minutes), stirring often.
  5. Stir in the pureed beans and cook about 20 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
  6. Stir in the remaining beans and stock. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add the toasted bread slices and cook about 10 minutes.
  7. Cool and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Reheat the soup over low heat about 20 minutes or until heated through. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with some Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
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Day 293–Sauteed Cabbage and Apples

Various apples

Apples combined with cabbage? Yummy and soul satisfying!

I am simply loco for apples and pumpkins this time of year. I think Trader Joes has about 20,000 new pumpkin flavored foods this fall and I’ll probably try about 5,000 of those before December. Yum.

In spite of our late freeze this year, which took a major toll on our NC apple crops, we’re still finding delicious, local apples at our farmer’s markets. The prices are higher, but they are so delicious that I’m willing to splurge on apples to eat in hand and to use in recipes, but making apple butter or canning apples probably won’t happen this year.

We made this recipe a couple of weeks ago when we received a lovely head of green cabbage in our Produce Box. Not only is this dish a  delicious way to enjoy local cabbage, but it also is very economical and deeply satisfying. Unlike some vegetable dishes, this seems to taste even better warmed up later, so make plenty! We served this with pan seared pork chops from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC and it made for a simple, but incredibly good meal! You could also serve this as a main course with some crusty bread and have a terrific rustic winter meal! If you want a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use 3 tbsp. of olive oil and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Sautéed Cabbage and Apples

  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 3 large apples (granny smith or gala), peeled, cored and sliced thick
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon pieces over medium heat and stir often to keep them from sticking. Cook until browned, but not too crisp (about 6-7 minutes).
  2. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Reduce drippings to about 3 tbsp.
  3. Add onion and carrots to the pot and cook over medium/high heat about 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add apple cider vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits.
  5. Add the cabbage and stir to combine. Cook about 10 minutes until cabbage softens. Add apples, stock and coriander. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the cabbage is not sticking. Add a bit of water or more stock if needed.
  6. Add bacon back into the pot and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve!

Day 38–Fresh Fish Tacos

Fish taco stand

It took me years to wrap my brain around the concept of a fish taco. First, the control freak in me despises crunchy taco shells–they shatter and make a mess. In my mind, if I’m going to eat a taco with a fork, it may as well be a salad. Second, the tacos of my childhood were pretty typical 70s fare: seasoned ground beef in an El Paso taco shell topped with Kraft cheese and maybe some baked beans on the side. Yes, Boston baked beans. Hey, don’t judge–that was “ethnic” food in 1970s suburbia. So in my mind, taco = ground beef. NOT fish. That was just unnatural.

Then, on one particularly inspired day, I visited a local restaurant and threw caution to the wind. I ordered the fish tacos. They were amazing. Warm, soft (soft!) tortillas filled with grilled catfish and a spicy cabbage slaw, they were delicious and (at least for me) revolutionary. I have been hooked ever since.

Armed with a pound of freshly caught NC catfish, I took the next culinary step this week and made fish tacos for my family. I had a recipe for a great sounding marinade that involved a lot of spices, but arrived home too late and too tired to put a great deal of effort into it. So, I ditched the recipe and made a few substitutions. In the end, it was still delicious, although I wish I had taken the time to make a chipotle cabbage slaw. The ‘tween in my house loved the tacos and I liked it a lot. My husband, who is way too nice to criticize my cooking, probably would have preferred more stuff in the taco than just fish (not a fan of avocado), but said it was good. Note to self: pack more yummy stuff in the tacos.

Here is my after-work-get-dinner-on-the-table-quick version of fish tacos. I’m including the chipotle slaw recipe, too. Next time, I’ll make this the night before so it’s ready quickly, because I think it would really be delicious.

Chipotle Cabbage Slaw

  • 3 c. chopped or shredded red cabbage
  • 1/2 c. organic mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. (or more to taste) of chipotle adobo sauce

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Quick Fish Tacos

  • 12 small corn tortillas (about 3 per person)
  • 1 lb. locally caught mild white fish (cod, tilapia, catfish)
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (we used Trader Joe’s taco seasoning packet)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup queso fresco or organic sour cream
  1. In a glass bowl, mix canola oil and taco seasoning together. Add fish, turn several times to coat, and let marinade for about 20 minutes.
  2. While fish is marinading, cube avocado and reserve in a bowl.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Put some olive oil on a paper towel and wipe the pan with oil. Add tortillas, one at a time, and warm them in the pan, turning once. Keep the tortillas warm in a piece of foil or wrapped in a warm tea towel. You could also microwave them, but I think they taste better warmed in a pan.
  4. When tortillas are warmed, increase the heat to the pan a bit. When pan is hot, add fish fillets to the pan. The marinade on the fish will serve as the oil, so you will not need to add more.
  5. Pan sear  fish until browned, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Fish is done when it flakes easily. Flake fish in the pan with the remaining marinade.
  6. Plate the dish by filling each tortilla with a few pieces of fish and cabbage slaw. Serve with avocado and queso fresco.