The Soup that Binds.

It’s time to talk about my grandpa. My mother’s father is, in a way, a food idol of mine. In a totally unconventional way. My grandpa (known as “Lac” to his friends)- his name is Anthony LaCamera) talks a good talk for being in his eighties. And for as long as I can remember, that talk was about food. More specifically: stories about food, and the people behind the food stories. He can make a stranger a new friend in what seems like under 3 minutes. Just by relating with people on the magnanimous subject of food. Most conversations I remember and still have with him recount a recent meal or a food outing, and the various people he develops an uncanny connection with, somehow related to that meal or food item he bought. Community through food, embodied in one individual with a huge heart and a huge respect for food. It’s food enjoyment that is so important in life. “Ooh, it makes you want to cry, that soup. It was something special. It turns out the guy knew my uncle, he used to work…Can you believe it!” Sadly, my grandparents live across the country in Virginia. I cook so many dishes I only dream of serving them. But my grandpa’s spirit definitely spreads to me all the way out in Oregon. As you may have noticed. Grandpa, if I could come over for lunch, this is what I would make you. Nana (more on her later!), I’d hope you would approve of my gluten-free dairy-free variation on this classic Italian soup. I promise I pour lots of love into it, especially for you two.

TUSCAN RIBOLLITA SOUP Yield: 6 servings Ingredients
  • 1/3# pound dried white beans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 thick slices pancetta, diced -optional
  • 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 cups stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Directions In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover. Soak overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid. Keep the liquid! Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup, and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups (bean liquid + stock combined). Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Stir in nutritional yeast and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Sometimes I add a splash of balsamic vinegar, for body. Serve hot. Serve for someone you love.

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