Zuppa e Insalata. The soup and salad course is not to be missed: salads are home to seasonal greens plus seafood and all the trimmings—or simply lettuces with high quality olive oil, salt and pepper. A quintessential soup of Tuscany—and born out of a peasant’s kitchen—is called ribollita. Ribollita can take on many forms, from thin and broth-like to thick like stew. Its signature ingredients include day old bread, cavalo nero (black cabbage), usually white cannellini beans and some tomato element (paste, sauce, pulp, fresh, etc.). I just planted black cabbage in my garden, as an endless supply is quintessential to my ribollita obsession.
The most memorable bread salad I have ever had in my life was in Vinci at the estate of grower Rossetti. We ate lunch on his estate, under a portico with bottles of DaVinci Wine. The entire lunch was memorable, with plates full of cured meats and Pecorino, chicken liver and tomato crostini, Panzanella (bread salad), watermelon and in the end: he brought out his own Vin Santo for us to enjoy with cantuccini (cantuccini look like miniature biscotti).
1 cup cooked cannelini beans (recipe in Contorni section)
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion (red or yellow work), ½ inch dice
3 carrots, small dice
2 celery, small dice
Optional: 1 medium waxy (not mealy) potato, ½ inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 LB cavalo nero (Italian for: black cabbage), kale or collard greens
KS&CP TT (Kosher Salt & Coarse Pepper, To Taste)
2 T tomato paste
10-12 crostini (recipe in Antipasti section)
Optional: top with grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Heat olive oil over medium; add onion, carrots, celery, potato, garlic and herbs. Cook for 5 minutes then add chopped cabbage, salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook another 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add water to cover by 1 inch and simmer 15 min. Add cooked beans and cook another 5-10 minutes, just to heat through. Place crostini in bottom of soup bowl and ladle soup over top. Add another good grind of salt and pepper, and fresh grated cheese.
Wine Pairing: a light soup and I would go white wine, but truth be told: if I am faced with a hearty, winter-vegetable version of ribollita you know I am pulling down DaVinci’s Chianti. And if it is a special lunch? I wouldn’t flinch: DaVinci’s Chianti Riserva.
Makes 8 servings.
3 red/yellow bell peppers
2-3 assorted summer squash
1 medium red onion
extra virgin olive oil
1 head garlic
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (or orange)
2 T balsamic (or red wine vinegar)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 Roma or sweet cherry/Sungold tomatoes
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup mixed chopped herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, mint, etc.
KS&CP TT (Kosher Salt & Coarse Pepper, To Taste)
Cut baguette through the middle, the long way like you are making a huge sub sandwich. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil or grill entire baguette. Rub with raw garlic while still hot (remember the crostini?). Meanwhile: chop peppers, squash and onion into bite size pieces; chop garlic head in half through equator and toss both garlic-head halves with all vegetables on large, parchment-lined sheet tray. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until begins to caramelize.
Make dressing: place lemon juice, balsamic, herbs and salt and pepper in bowl. Whisk in olive oil. When vegetables are done roasting: squeeze out 5-6 cloves of the softened garlic, mash to a paste and add to dressing.
Make salad: chop tomatoes into bite size pieces, discarding pulp and seeds. Place in large bowl. Add to bowl: baguette torn into bite-sized pieces, roasted vegetables and roasted garlic dressing. Toss to blend. Salad tastes perfect after it has had a chance to ‘marry’ flavors. A good hour should do it.
Note: Tuscan bread is typically unsalted. It started out as a must due to wars, rivalries and cost, but unsalted bread stuck around even when Tuscans could afford salt. There are a number of reasons why, including that as unsalted bread stales it doesn’t mold (it hardens), and when it is added to soups and salads it doesn’t become soggy like salted bread does. This is important, since Tuscany’s ‘Soups and Salads’ are synonymous with day-old bread. To that end, when using day-old bread in classic Tuscan dishes (and I don’t have Tuscany’s unsalted bread): I grill/broil/toast them before introducing them to broth or vinaigrette.
Wine Pairing: I associate Panzanella with ‘summer salad for lunch’ which means I will order up a glass of DaVinci Wine’s Pinot Grigio.
*this cookbook was produced for DaVinci Wines; they kindly sponsored a trip to Vinci, Italy for 4 Storytellers—I was the ‘Culinary Storyteller.’ While I was not paid to go on the trip (well in experience “dollars” YES!), DaVinci Wines paid for the trip. Yet as is always the case: all opinions, recipes and insights are my own.