Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ribolitta: My New (Soup) Passion

This is, hands down, one of the best soup recipes I have ever tried. So good, in fact, that I made it two weeks in a row, with slight variations each time. I loved it, Mr. B loved it, Brilliant Daughter loved it, Butcher Son loved it. Now I just need to spread the word so everyone else can love it too!

Ribolitta is a hearty soup, a la Minestrone, but indigenous to the Tuscan region of Italy. There are different variations, with the original recipe using white beans, a variety of vegetables, and often day-old bread. This version isn’t that far off the track, but know that you can substitute different vegetables that you have on hand. While onions and carrots are standard, you can add cabbage, chard or kale, celery or fennel, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips or celery root. That’s the beauty of this soup—being able to use up what you have on hand or what is in season.

So, this recipe came from Sylvia Fountaine of the Feasting at Home blog. What drew me to it initially was the addition of an infused olive oil that gets drizzled on the soup when serving. And believe me, it adds a whole dimension to the soup that is out of this world – so do not, I repeat, do not skip that part of the recipe. It is crucial to the flavor. Really, it will make you swoon.

One curious thing about this soup is that there really were no herbs in it, which felt strange to me.  So, I couldn’t risk meddling a bit with the recipe. (Sorry, Sylvia!)

As I mentioned, I made two versions over the course of two weeks. The first version had pancetta, red wine, and a large heaping soup spoon of my homemade chimichurri. The second had homemade bacon, white wine, and a large heaping soup spoon of my homemade pesto. The recipe calls for pancetta, but Trader Joe’s was out of their diced pancetta for the second round, so I subbed in my bacon. I was out of the required white wine on the first go, so used the red, and both the chimichurri (rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, red chili flakes, olive oil and balsamic) and the pesto (basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese) were my own additions.

While both versions were delicious, I prefer the first. I used bacon ends in the second version, which tend to be very smoky, so they add a different flavor altogether. I also think the red wine works better than the white, even though it’s only a half cup or so. (The recipe calls for a splash, but I went big!) And the chimichurri herbs were a better pairing. The only thing I might do differently is use chard, which I like better than kale. But that will next time week!

So give this hearty soup a chance. Please. You won’t be sorry.

Rosemary/Lemon/Garlic Oil
½ cup olive oil
peel from 1 large lemon
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs rosemary

Put all ingredients into a mason jar (or plastic container). Give it a good shake. Let it sit out on the counter all day, shaking periodically to help the ingredients infuse into the oil.

1/8 cup olive oil
¼ pound diced pancetta or bacon
2 medium onions, diced
3 large carrots, diced
5 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 teaspoons salt
15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
6 cups chopped lacinto kale (or chard)
½ cup red wine
1 heaping soup spoon chimichurri or pesto (this can be omitted)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ chopped Italian parsley
Grated parmesan

In large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and pancetta and sauté for 6-8 minutes.

Lower heat to medium-low and add carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes. Cook for an additional 7-9 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Add canned tomatoes, kale, wine, and chimichurri or pesto. Continue sautéing for 7-8 minutes. Then add in the broth and the beans. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

To serve, ladle soup into the bowl, sprinkle with parmesan and then drizzle with the infused olive oil (be generous here!).

NOTE: This goes great with some nice crusty bread. Try this 5 Minute Artisan Bread recipe.

Serves: 6-8

Monday, November 07, 2016

Fall Breakfast: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Fall has definitely arrived and with Halloween in the past and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I am overjoyed to have an abundance of pumpkins. We love the taste of pumpkin, in breakfast, soups, curries, and desserts. It’s actually quite versatile. And I always make sure to buy plenty right before or after Halloween, as most stores take them out of rotation and they can be hard to find. I also stock up on several cans of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), for quick muffins and scones.

I had a yen for pumpkin muffins on Sunday and found this easy and delicious recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction blog. I had everything in stock—most of which are pantry and refrigerator staples—and whipped these up in 10 minutes. Yes, it takes longer than a box mix, but it’s quicker than going to the bakery. And I guarantee that you will love them. Really.

While the recipe itself looks long and complicated at first glance, it really isn’t. You mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, and them combine the two. Scoop into your prepared muffin tin, whip up the streusel and stick them in the oven. Now, know that they are perfectly fine this way and there is really no need for the maple drizzle, but I wanted to be true to the recipe (with one small change—just can’t help myself!).

So grab a can of pumpkin or cook down those uncut pumpkins and make a batch, you won’t be sorry and your family will love you forever.

And if you are thinking about Thanksgiving, I have the best pumpkin pie recipe.  It was gifted to me by a friend at work, her grandmother’s recipe. Simple, made in a blender, you’ll never make pumpkin pie any other way.  See the recipe here.

Happy Fall!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each allspice, clove, ginger and nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup milk (cow, almond, soy, or other)

Crumb Topping
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each allspice, clove, ginger and nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Maple Drizzle (optional)
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk (cow, almond, soy, or other)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line muffin tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the dry ingredients in, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

Spoon the batter into liners, filling them two-thirds.

To make the streusel, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they're snug.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425° , then reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the drizzle.

To make the drizzle, combine all of the icing ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve.

Yield: 18 muffins