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Thursday, January 24, 2013

La Buona Zuppa (The Good Soup)

A few simple ingredients is I need.

Now that's mmm mmm buona : )

And after the bread has soaked up the juices it's even better!

Its the dead of winter and I don't need to look at the calender to tell me so because my sudden craving for a good soup says it all. I am cold. Cold in both body and soul and I need the warmth and goodness of a good bowl of soup or La Buona Zuppa. A can popped open and reheated won't do it for the very reason that the preparation of the soup brings as much comfort and warmth to my body and soul as the eating of it does, chopping the vegetables, stirring the ingredients, savoring the aromas as they dance around my kitchen.The fact that I end up with a soup that has the depth of flavor only homemade can give made from a few simple ingredients other wise destined for the trash is an added benefit. On a cold day like today I like to start my Buona Zuppa warming ritual by raiding the refrigerate and pantry to see what good little tidbits might be destined for my pot of zuppa goodness. I take mental stock of what I have: One can of white beans, one slice of bacon I had the sensibleness to freeze for a rainy day, a few pieces of sage left over from a recipe I cooked the other night, fresh rosemary the only thing alive in my winter garden, and oh yeah, let's not forget that little piece of Parmesan  rind I have tucked away in the cheese drawer for such a day as this.This may not sound like a lot and maybe on their own may not be but I know a few little secrets my Mama taught me, and her Neapolitan Mother-in-law taught her, and I in turn have taught my own daughter ....
  • A simple sofritto of carrot, onion, celery, and parsley is all you need for the base of any soup, and maybe a little white wine but no broth is required. 
  • Add each ingredient in layers allowing each one to release it's flavor by cooking for just a few minutes before adding the next.
  • A small rind left over from Parmesan adds all the flavor of Parmesan for free and these can be frozen for a long long time!
  • And last but not least every soup needs a bit of acid such as a tomato, chili pepper sauce, or in this case a squirt of lemon at the end.
 As I stir the smells evoke feelings of warmth and goodness like I haven't felt for a while , I needed this. I will serve this good soup with day old bread toasted and rubbed with a bit of garlic and olive oil. I take my first bite and I am immediately rewarded with a warmth that permeates my whole body from the top of my head to bottom of my feet and ready to face the last few weeks of winter with fortitude.

olive oil (Use the best olive oil you have I don't mean to sound like Ina but it really matters in a good soup.
1 large can of beans rinsed and drained (I prefer white beans for soups)
1 small onion
1 carrot
1 celery
1 garlic clove
fresh parsley
any other fresh herb of your choice (sage and rosemary)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
left over Parmesan rind
1 lemon to squirt on at end
salt and pepper and red pepper flakes if you like
Fry the piece of bacon in the soup pot you will be using and then remove and discard only leaving the grease behind. You can chop the bacon and add at the end but it will get to rubbery if cooked along with the soup.
Prepare your sofritto by chopping onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and parsley fine.
Add enough olive oil to the bacon grease to cover the entire bottom.
Saute the sofritto along with a good punch of sea salt on medium low until all is soft but not brown.
Turn up the heat to medium high and add the white wine cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Add other herbs you are using and half the beans mashing with a potato masher as it cooks for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the other whole beans and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
Add enough water to cover by 2-3 inches, the Parmesan rind, salt and pepper and red pepper if you like and bring to a boil lowering to a slow simmer, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove lid and taste for salt.
Allow it to simmer without the lid for a few minutes or until it thickens to the consistency you like.
At this point you can remove the rind and either discard or chop it up and add back to the soup.
In the bottom of each bowl place your toasted bread and then ladle the soup in.
Add Parmesan,a squirt of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil to each bowl.

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