Ribollita with Black-Eyed Peas and Celery Leaf Pistou
Plus: Dinner at Gris-Gris in New Orleans and Lots of Links
Hey Thursday friends,
I have a feeling this post is going to get me in trouble with lots of people. First, it’ll get me in trouble with Italians who will point out that this soup is not in any way a ribollita, which traditionally has tomatoes, cannellini beans, and torn bread. Then it’ll get me in trouble with the French, who will point out that a traditional soupe au pistou has zucchini, and green beans, and a pesto made with basil. Southerners, too, may be pissed off at this odd use of black-eyed peas. And, finally, you may be pissed off that you paid for this gobbledygook.
But hear me out! Right before I left for New Orleans (where I’m writing to you from right now), I had my friend Jonathan over for dinner. Jonathan, as you’ll learn if you listen to today’s Lunch Therapy, is a vegetarian struggling to find food to eat in Nola:
So I wanted to offer him something nourishing and wholesome to eat before we left. A traditional ribollita has lots of onions, carrots, and celery (soffrito), plus cabbage and kale; Craig fell in love with black-eyed peas from the soup that I made at the start of the New Year with sausage in it, and I love how they go from dry to cooked very quickly; and then my celery had lots of leaves on it, so I loved the idea of chopping them up with garlic and mixing them with lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil to put on top. The results were just what I wanted: a deep, flavorful soup packed with vegetables, and a zippy pesto that brightened everything up.
Recipe: Ribollita with Black-Eyed Peas and Celery Leaf Pesto
The concept of this soup is basically this: you could a lot of vegetables and garlic in olive oil, you add a flavorful stock (plus a Parmesan rind if you have it), and while that’s simmering away, you make a punchy pesto with whatever leaves you have around (well, edible leaves). Then you top the whole thing with more olive oil, spoonfuls of the pesto, and lots and lots of grated Parmesan. Plus: you broil some bread, rub it with garlic, and serve it alongside. It’s a vegetarian feast that doesn’t feel punishing in the slightest. Let me tell you how to make it.
Makes enough for 6
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for later
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped (be sure to taste your carrots before using: if they’re not sweet, don’t use them) (1 cup)
2 ribs of celery, chopped (1 cup), leaves reserved
2 heads of fennel, cored and chopped (1 cup), fronds reserved
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced + 3 more cloves for the pesto
Red chili flakes
1 small head of cabbage, cored and chopped (about 2 to 3 cups)
1 bunch of Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped (about 2 to 3 cups)
8 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (note: if you don’t have stock, you can make this with water)
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, rinsed (I like Rancho Gordo’s)
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
1/2 pound of ditalini or other small pasta
Sliced sourdough, broiled on both sides, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil (for serving)
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