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Ribollita

The following recipe has been taken from Yesterday's Bread:

(6 to 8 servings)

8 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

3 stalks celery, trimmed and washed

3 carrots, peeled

2 cloves garlic, gently smashed and peeled

2 ounces prosciutto, pancetta, or slab bacon

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion

1/2 cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt

Pepper

1 pound cabbage

1 pound Swiss chard

1 pound cavolo nero

1 pound (2 medium) all-purpose potatoes

4 cups chicken broth

6 to 8 slices Tuscan bread, several days old

Extra-virgin olice oil

Ribollita in Italian means to reboil, or boil again. Traditionally, leftover vegetable soup was remade with the addition of stale bread, which thickened it and added flavor. As with so many old-fashioned thrift-conscious dishes, ribollita is now much-loved and intentionally made, which means planning a day ahead. Otherwise, it is simple enough, and open to some interpretation by the cook.

Cavolo nero (black cabbage), a very dark green leafy Italian vegetable, is beginning to appear in U.S. markets, sometimes labeled Tuscan kale, lacinato, or dinosaur kale. It is delicious and worth asking for, but if you cannot find it, simply increase the quantities of cabbage and Swiss chard.

Drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Cut one celery stalk and one carrot into several pieces and add them to the pot with the garlic, prosciutto, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil; pour in about 4 quarts water - enough to generously cover the beans.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and when it reaches a slow boil reduce the heat and partially cover the pot. Simmer the beans until they are tender but not soft, about 40 minutes. Drain the beans, discarding the celery, carrot, and garlic, but reserving the cooking water. Refresh the beans under cold water and set them aside.

Meanwhile, chop together the remaining celery, carrots and the onion and parsley. Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat and stir in the chopped vegetables until they are soft but not browned. Stir the tomato paste into the mixture and cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer.

Pour the reserved bean cooking water into the pot and add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a low boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Core the cabbage and cut it into shreds. Cut the Swiss chard and cavolo nero leaves away from their tough stalks and then into shreds. Rinse the greens. Peel and cube the potatoes. Add the greens, the potatoes, and 2 cups of the broth to the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes longer, adding broth as needed to maintain a thick soup. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes.

Place a layer of bread in a large bowl or container. Or do this in another pot if one is available that will fit into your refrigerator. Ladle the soup over the bread, mae another layer of bread, and continue, finishing with soup, until everything is used up. Set the soup aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the soup from the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature, reheat it over medium heat, and serve it hot. Pass the additional olive oil at the table. The soup can be thinned to taste with water or additional broth if it has thickened a great deal, but this by no means should be a "loose" soup.

This recipe is reprinted from Yesterday's Bread. ©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

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