I had set December 1st of each year as the beginning of a month when I would throw food caution to the wind. I pledged that I would not worry about calories, fat, or other ruinous pleasures. During December, I refuse no invitations, nor desserts. I didn’t care. I stayed away from the scale in my home all during the month as though doing so would ward off the pounds accumulating on my hips.
But beginning January 1st, all of us must come back to the reality of love-handles. It is now time to revert to rational eating and to try to be sensible again. January 1st is the start of soup season for me.
Someone once did a study, comparing the filling quality of salad and soups. The same vegetables used in a salad were made into a soup, and the study participants were asked, once they finished eating, which was the more filling. Those who ate salad asked when the next course would come. Those who ate soup felt filled up and asked for nothing more.
You can make soup as a first course, which will fill you up enough to restrain you when you eat the main course, or, you can make a soup as an entire meal. One favorable quality of making soup is that one an use up ingredients that you might otherwise throw away. A half an onion, a piece of zucchini, old bread, a piece of celery, etc, can all be thrown into the soup pot with wonderful results. You need neither my advice nor that of Martha Stewart’s on this count, as it goes without saying that soup is especially welcome in the winter months.
One of my favorite soups is Ribollita. This soups uses all the vegetables in your vegetable drawer, the beans in your pantry and the two days old bread on your counter. It is a meal that contain almost all the food groups.
1/4 cups olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups Cannellini beans, soaked for couple hours
1 16-ounce canned diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely chopped white cabbage
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1/4 teaspoon chopped sage
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon basil
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices couple days-old European bread, cut into chunks
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
-Heat the olive oil in a large heavy stew pot. Add the onion, the celery and the carrots. Saute over medium heat. Once the vegetables are soft, add the beans and 10 cups of water. Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes or until the beans are cooked but not mushy.
-Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, sage, bay leaf, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning.
-Add the vegetables, stir, cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.
-Take the soup off the heat, add the bread and the Parmesan cheese. Stir and let the soup cool to allow the flavors to combine; it can even remain in the refrigerator overnight. Put the mixture back on the heat and let it cook over low heat slowly for at least 30 minutes. Ribollita means “over-boiled” so it is impossible to cook this soup too long