Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 24, 2021
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Tuscan-style kale soup

The Italian name for this soup, ribollita, which literally means reboiled, reveals its very practical origins as a way to use leftover vegetables and day-old bread. Long simmering renders the beans tender and the kale silky; hunks of rustic bread all but disappear, thickening the broth to a stew-like consistency. Flavourful and sustaining, the sum of these humble parts is a masterpiece of Tuscan peasant cooking.

¼ c. (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbsp. (45 ml) for serving
½ c. (125 ml) chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 ribs celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 28-oz. (793-g) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 lbs. (1 kg) trimmed and roughly chopped kale (like cavalo nero)
3 14-oz. (397-g) borlotti or cannellini beans, drained
1 ¾-lb. (375 g) loaf stale ciabatta bread, trimmed of crust and torn into 1-inch (1.25-cm) pieces

Heat ¼ cup (60 ml) oil in an 8-quart (8-L) pot over medium-high heat. Add the parsley, celery, garlic, carrots and onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Put the tomatoes into a medium bowl. Crush them by hand and transfer to the pot along with the juices. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the kale, 2 cans of beans and 16 cups (4 L) water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the kale is tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, purée the remaining can of beans and ½ cup (125 ml) of water in a blender. Stir into the pot. Add the bread pieces and remaining oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve drizzled with olive oil. Serves 8 to 10.

Cooking note: Ribollita can be made with any type of kale, but cavolo nero, a Tuscan variety that grows through the lean winter months, maintains its body and crinkly texture particularly well. Cavolo nero is also known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale or lacinato.

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