A Soup for Odds and Ends

I often lose track of what is in my fridge. In my one-shelf dorm room fridge, murky jars of carrots and vinegar from pickles past lurk in the back as greens and loose brussels sprouts are stuffed around Tupperware containers like a well-packed UPS box. The prep stage of my cooking process is a lengthy affair as I have to remove every item in the fridge in order to find what I'm looking for, then stuff all the items back in, closing the door as fast as possible and almost always catching a leaf or sprout in the hinge. 

Come Wednesday evening, I panic while playing a winner-less game of fridge Tetris, trying to find room for tomorrow's share. I take stock – a couple carrots, a half an onion, kale past its prime. There's a really great recipe for kale and white bean soup that I have bookmarked, but that bookmark was created in 2013 and I will never be Pinterest enough to make a bouquet garni out of a leek leaf. I improvise. I grab a can of chickpeas to replace the white beans, the jar of crushed tomatoes that just rolled out of the fridge, and every rogue root and bulb I find. 

As I made the soup – sweating carrots, celery, and onion in garlicky olive oil and simmering down crushed tomatoes and water – I noticed it was turning into a clumsy ribollita of sorts. Ribollita is a classic Tuscan soup made with cannellini beans and cheap vegetables, thickened with stale bread. So I grab the last couple of slices of Seven Stars' durum from last week, cut off the crust, and toss bite-sized chunks into the pot. Twenty minutes later, I had warm soup, a clean fridge, and a six-page paper to write because I just spent two hours making and writing about soup. 

Ribollita
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
2 T olive oil
3/4 C red onion, chopped*
1/2 C carrots, chopped*
1/2 C celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped*
1/2 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 1/2 C kale or other leafy green, roughly chopped
2 C cooked beans such as chickpeas or cannellini beans
4 C water (or a combination of 1 C vegetable stock and 3 C water)
3 large slices stale bread, crusts removed and torn into bite-sized chunks*
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

*From last week's share

1. Heat olive oil in a large, sturdy pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes or until vegetables have softened and onions are translucent. 

2. Add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmer for another ten minutes until tomatoes have thickened. 

3. Stir in the kale, beans, and water (or water and broth). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes. 

4. Add in the chunks of bread, stirring to break them up. Allow the soup to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it has thickened to a desired consistency. Season generously with salt and pepper. 

5. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. 

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks