Friday, October 1, 2010

Weather; Composting; A Fabulous Fall Soup Recipe; and A Foodie Event!

The rain and the winds seem to be moving out of the area as I write this - but what a couple of days we had!  While no one would doubt that we needed the rain, no one would have asked for THAT much.  Plus the rains pretty much played havoc with anything left on plants, trees and vines.

This morning, I was greeted by what looked like a carpet of concord grapes in our garden.  A shame and a big loss for the various birds we share our grapevine with each year.  The post storm work was mostly about dumping water, sweeping, and restoring our environment out there.  I am hoping that we will still have plenty of hours spent enjoying the garden, even though I can feel the air changing around me.

The storm was a good reminder that leaves - which can be great in your compost or just tossed in your garden - can be very damaging if they pile up in your downspouts and drains.  We emptied out our French drains of a lot of material - just in time for the rain to arrive.  I am also reminded of the age of some of the enormous trees on our block - when the ground becomes hypersaturated, there is a greater chance for these wonderful old residents of the neighborhood to literally lift up out of the ground and end up on cars and houses.

Speaking of compost, it is a good time to take a look at what you are getting.  This is our first year with a full blown Composter in our side alley - we have been faithful to it and it looks like our efforts have been rewarded, at least a bit, for our first year effort.  We see beautiful black rich matter at the bottom of the composter - how wonderful!  As cooks who mainly use fresh, natural products, we have never been short of "stuff" for the composter and it is yielding some gorgeous results.  I can't encourage city gardeners and urban mini-farmers enough:  it IS worth it; it is not much work and the results will be very useful to the health of your growing space, now matter how small/no matter how large.

Our Urban Composter

Just a reminder:  it is time to get those seed garlic bulbs in, along with any lettuces, arugula, and spinach that you hope to be able to harvest into late Fall. I got a feeling the cooler weather is here to stay!

We had some success this year growing Black Kale - a fabulous italian green - which, after we harvested a good deal of it in early summer, kept right on growing right through the hottest days.  We have been so anxious to make this week's recipe using this fabulous - and good for you - kale.  It also provides us with another use for our Swiss Chard - which also did very well this year.

Black Kale

(means "reboiled")

This is really the most authentic of all of the Tuscan soups.  It is very popular in Florence and we had wonderful steaming bowls of it on a rainy day in a lovely wine bar in Voltera, a beautiful hill town in Tuscany.  It is reflective of the Italian belief that "nothing should be thrown away" - this dish is a wonderful use for stale bread!

Serves 6 - 8

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 minced garlic cloves
2 medium onion, diced fine
2 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, roughly chopped
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bunch of Swiss Chard washed, trimmed and chopped
1 bunch of Black Kale washed, trimmed and chopped
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, shredded
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked white beans - with their liquid
Salt and pepper; a pinch or two of red chile flakes
1 loaf of stale Tuscan bread or other sturdy country white bread - sliced thickly
Additional EVOO for drizzling over the soup

Heat the EVOO; add the garlic, onions, celery and carrots.  Cook until the onions become translucent.
Add the chopped tomatoes - cook another 5 minutes
Add the remaining vegetables, including the beans and their liquid, add salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of red pepper flakes
Add enough water to just cover all; bring to a boil
Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the soup for about 2 hours - until the veg is very tender and the broth is rich and flavorful

NOW - this is the "Ribollita" part - you can eat the soup as it is - it is a fantastic minestrone OR you can "Reboil" it (the meaning of ribollita) with the bread.

To reboil the soup:  layer bread in another pot, alternate with full ladels of soup
Bring the soup to a boil slowly; remember to cook carefully so that the bottom doesn't burn. 
Stir frequently to mix the bread evenly throughout the soup. 

The soup is done when the bread dissolves completely and is absorbed into the liquid. 
Ladle into individual bowls and drizzle with EVOO
Ribollita goes very nicely with a rich Italian red wine!

Foodie Event next Week! 

The first Night Market will be held Thursday October 7th from 6 pm to 10 pm at East Passyunk and Tasker.
Exotic Eats, Live Music and Fun Drinks.

Come support this wonderful neighborhood event!!!  Let's make Night Market a regular event!

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