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Sharon Hanna tried some outdoor cooking this summer with this delicious garden soup.
During mid-July when veggies were abundant (especially zucchini, beans and chard), my friend Barb Coward and I made this soup outside on the propane side-burner of her barbecue. It was hot as blazes, thus the outdoor cooking.
If you don’t have a side-burner, you could use an electric hotplate or camping stove. It’s awfully nice to cook food outside—the whole neighbourhood gets to appreciate the aromas. If it’s a chilly day, make it inside on your regular stove.
Make a ton of it, and freeze in mason jars to enjoy in winter, or process if you are into canning. If you are going to process in a hot water bath, be sure to cook the soup a little less.
The recipe Barb was using called the soup ribollita—supposedly similar to minestrone but without the pasta. However, upon researching, this soup is not ribollita, which means “reboiled” in Italian, and is based upon using dried beans, which are cooked, with a lot of what’s in the garden thrown in. Real ribollita is served on top of “rich greens sautéed in a lot of olive oil,” as well as a piece of bread. It does sound good too, but we did it without the rich greens since it was full of veggies already.
The bread is a for-sure, thrown in at the bottom. If you wanted, you could put the bread on top, strew with cheese, then run it under the broiler in an ovenproof bowl. Then drizzle with olive oil and add freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.
The second time I made it, I used my own tomatoes—Saltspring Sunrise (pictured with the cut-up veggies) grown from seeds given to me by Tara Warne, an excellent gardener and a member of the GardenWise sales team, from tomatoes grown on Saltspring Island! So… lots of lovely relationships and connections with this soup.
Also on the second run, I pureed half the cooked (dried) beans—using navy beans this time. Sticklers for the authentic could use larger-sized dried cannellini beans, which Whole Foods sells for $1.99/100 grams, as opposed to the navy beans which sell for about $0.49/100g. I’m sure in the end it doesn’t make that much difference to the soup.
Hopefully you are now hungry reading this and will rush out to your garden and start gathering. Maybe you’ll have to retrieve some of the zucchini you’ve been leaving around the neighbourhood inside open-windowed vehicles. Do remember not to add too much of the cabbage family (kale, cabbage, collards); just a bit. And, I would not add broccoli or cauliflower, as they would overwhelm the delicate taste of the soup.
Marianne, my Italian/Maltese pal whose recipe for Sun Sauce was blogged about earlier, talks about her mother putting old heels of hard Parmesan, Romano, etc. into soup. (Start putting little bits of hard cheese in the freezer for this purpose…) Try it in this soup as well. It gives any soup an Italian flair and biting into bits of soft gummy cheese is… unbelievably wonderful. Enjoy!
Olive oil, lots
Group 1 ingredients:
Swiss chard stems, cut small (keep leaves behind for adding later)
Carrots, sliced thin
2 cans diced tomatoes
8 cups stock (veggie, chicken, or water)
Cabbage family: cabbage, kale (not too much), collards (ditto) – shredded
Group 2 ingredients:
Green beans, halved
Scarlet runner beans, picked small, check for strings, chop smallish
Chard leaves, chopped
Zucchini (good for slightly overgrown zucchini, but not huge), chopped
2 cups (more or less) cooked cannellini or other white beans
Fennel (herb) “leaves”
Maybe a few immature flower heads (look out for ladybugs—don’t cook ’em)
2–4 tbsp. pesto, optional
Squash blossoms added at the last minute—if you have them
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in large soup pot. Add onions and leeks. Sauté over low heat about 5 minutes, until barely translucent. Add chopped garlic and cook a few more minutes.
Add Group 1 of veggies and sauté, stirring occasionally. Don’t let veggies stick—you might need to add more olive oil.
Add tomatoes and stock. Return to a low bubbling simmer. Add cabbage family (if desired; too much will give it a possibly undesired brassica taste). Cook briefly.
Add everything else (Group 2). Do not boil. Keep simmering SLOWLY until all veggies are tender—about 30–40 more minutes. Taste for seasoning. To serve, tear up a large piece of good bread into a serving bowl, ladle soup on top, drizzle with more olive oil.
Parmesan, Asiago or Romano grated on top is optional.
This soup tastes better if allowed to cool down first—either for a few hours or overnight. Gently reheat before serving.