From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I know! I know! A person more high-minded than myself would have called this dish Zuppa Lombardi. I'm using its alternate name because it better expresses my humor at the end of this long and difficult week. Both computers have been scrubbed and are back in working order, but it took a full week, a team of techies and considerable coin to get them there. The virus was traced to a scam originating in Russia. It was detected by our internet provider, but notification came too late to do us any good. So, be forewarned and vigilant. Not everyone out there has your best interests at heart. Treasure your back-ups, make sure they are current and you'll spare yourself a world of grief should this gift from the East come your way.
I've come to love the word bastarda. It says nothing and it says it all. It also reminds me of an admonition from my father. When I completed university, he tucked a wallet-size insert into my graduation card. It said, "Don't let the bastards grind you down." On the back of it he had written his testament to my stubborn spirit, "They'll try, but the world is yours. They'll wear out before you wear down." I suspect he was very tired at the time he wrote that.
Zuppa Bastarda is a bean soup that has some history attached to it. There are two stories told of its origins. One, insists the soup was the creation of black shirted fascists in Mussolini's Italy. Their version of the soup was made with black beans, some say to reflect the darkness of their hearts. Another group insists the soup comes from Brescia, a city in Lombardi. They trace the soup back to 1740 and insist it should be made with white beans. They believe the first zuppa bastarda was the creation of a frugal peasant who, needing to feed her family, used the cooking liquid from white beans to soak stale Tuscan bread that she served as a soup to fill their hungry bellies. Interestingly, both recipes for the soup are nearly identical. The main ingredients are dry beans, stale bread and olive oil, and, surprisingly, the soup is not half bad. If you like hearty bean soups, I think you'll love this one. The recipe can also be adapted for use in a crock-pot. The crock-pot recipe can be found here. Here's how it's made stovetop.
Zuppa Bastarda...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water
1 large white onion, chopped
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves + 5 whole fresh sage leaves, separated
8 slices stale or toasted Italian bread, rubbed with 1 large garlic clove
8 teaspoons Extra virgin olive oil
Shaved Parmesan cheese
1) Drain soaked beans and place in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and cover with 4 inches of fresh water. Add onion, sage leaves and garlic. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Soup will be thick. Add salt, to taste.
2) Place bread in bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Pour a ladleful of soup over bread. Dust with freshly ground black pepper and chopped sage and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with cheese. Serve hot. Yield: 8 servings.
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