The fall has finally arrived, and with it the rain. I am a transplant to the Pacific Northwest. All of this rain is new to me. As a kid growing up in Boston we had hurricanes, blizzards ... Rainy season? This is a first. Bone chilling. The beauty of it all is that the cure is simple: soup. Fixes most cold related maladies.
This particular recipe is a variation on a traditional soup called Zuppa Toscana. The main difference that you will notice in this version is that there is no sausage. No meat at all really. Unusual for me in general, as I have often joked that even Italian vegetarian food has pork in some form or another. Not this recipe. The why is simple really. Part of the whole approach to my cooking in general--and for this site especially--is that the recipes should for the most part be simple, healthful and prepared with what is on hand, whether in the garden or in the fridge. When I decided to cook this soup I had sausage in neither of those two places.
What I did have, however, were the ingredients to make a stunningly straightforward and hearty soup with surprising depth. A cure for all that ails you. At the very least it's an excuse to stay inside safely out of the harsh weather that is setting upon us, open a bottle of red wine and lose yourself in a copy of Bugialli's Italian Cooking while the pot gently simmers on the stove, filling your house with the earthy pungent aromas of the season!
2 T (30g) extra virgin olive oil
1 ea (200g) yellow onion, medium dice
5 ea (25g) garlic cloves, grated on a microplane
1 ea dried chili pepper
2 bu (340g) tuscan kale, sliced into ribbons
1 quart (1000g) water1 lb (448g) russet potato, medium dice
2 oz (56g) stale rustic bread, torn into pieces and dried overnight
salt and pepper to taste
parmigiano reggiano to garnish
Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion, garlic and chili pepper until the vegetables are tender, but haven't taken on any color.
Add the kale and cook until completely broken down and tender. It's really important to let this step take time. The kale takes on a dark, almost black color and develops an intense nutty aroma and flavor that can't be achieved except through time and patience. This may take as long as thirty minutes, but the payoff is worth it.
Once the kale is tender pour in the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the potatoes and a bit of salt, and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender but have not lost their shape.
Turn off the heat and set aside.Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with the dried bread, a generous grating of parmigiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.