Is it too late to talk about New Year’s resolutions? I know it’s already been 2016 for a week and I’ve already published my first post of the year. And I know we’re really not supposed to care about New Year’s resolutions because we can choose to make a change any day. To wait until January 1st to make a change is to lack the will to change. Or so judgy blogs have told me.
Despite this questionable advice I like New Year’s Resolutions. There’s something freeing about having a dedicated time to sit down and think about change. January offers a chance to reset after the storm of December. And while you can make goals at any time, there’s something to the rhythm of life that New Year’s resolutions provide. Another year, another time to reflect.
I’m not all about the “New Year, New Me”, but rather choosing to make gradual changes to help be the best version of myself. This year I’ve resolved to post more here, to stop using my phone in bed, to walk more, to spend more time with friends, to try out new ingredients and techniques, and to work on getting my college Spanish back up to snuff. Nothing too crazy, just moving in the direction I want to be.
Maybe you’re making resolutions. Maybe you’ve promised to cook more or eat more veggies or waste less. Or maybe not. Maybe you just came here to find a good meal for dinner. Whatever the case I’ve got a great one for you.
Ribollita is a Tuscan soup similar to minestrone, and is the perfect vehicle for leftovers. To make ribollita you make a brothy soup full of veggies and then add in torn pieces of old, stale bread. It sounds weird, I know. But the bread first softens, then falls apart. It thickens the soup, and any pieces that don’t dissolve completely are little pockets of soup-infused custard. It’s perfect for the half loaves of bread that you may have laying around that are too hard to eat but you can’t bear to throw away because that’s wasteful. It’s economical, because assuming you have stale bread, tomatoes, and some vegetables you can just throw it together with what you’ve got on hand. It’s warming, which is perfect for January (this weekend’s highs are in the single digits here in Minneapolis) and nutrient dense, which regardless of your stance on resolutions is a good thing this time of year.
Ribolitta’s a formula more than a set rule of ingredients, so you can mix and match as you wish. I will say that this version, with sweet potatoes, fennel, and Swiss chard brightened with orange zest and juice, is very good. It makes keeping healthy eating resolutions, if you’re the kind of person who makes said resolutions, very easy. And if you’re not into resolutions it makes a great dinner.
If you’re making any resolutions this year I’d love to hear them. Wishing you warmth and success this weekend.
I used fennel here because my grocery store didn’t have celery. (I know. Is that even possible?) I love the sweet, anise note it brings. If you don’t love fennel or can’t find it, celery would work admirably. I added the stems of the Swiss chard for an extra nutrient burst and because the colors are so beautiful and I would recommend you do the same- they’re reminiscent of slightly tart celery.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 bunch of Swiss chard, stems diced and leaves shredded
red pepper flakes
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped
1 twenty-eight ounce can of whole tomatoes, crushed and juices saved
6 cups of water
half a baguette, torn into small pieces
1 fifteen ounce can of cannellini beans
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, and chard stems and stir to coat well with oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a shake of red pepper flakes. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and taking on some color, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the sweet potato and can of tomatoes, being careful to scrape up any bits on the bottom. Add the water and the swiss chard and bring to a boil. Add the bread pieces, the beans, the orange zest, and a teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread is almost dissolved. Be careful not to let it burn.
When the bread is soft and falling apart squeeze in the juice of half the zested orange and stir in the red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. It should taste bright but not overpowering. Enjoy hot.