What game?

 Remember that thing about being Jewish in Wisconsin – when everyone wishes you a Merry Christmas but you feel left out because you don’t celebrate it?  Well, I don’t celebrate football, and yet there is a huge party going on in most Wisconsin homes right now, as the Green Bay Packers are meeting the Pittsburgh Steelers on the field of battle.  Or whatever. Reminds me of my favorite Onion T-shirt.

I’m not bitter or anything, just not interested.  And I certainly don’t feel left out.  Why, this morning we got up and instead of attending the annual Mount Horeb Rotary Club pancake breakfast, we stayed in and made our own.  Blueberry, with maple syrup and some soy vanilla yogurt. Picture to follow when I’m not too lazy to get up and get my camera!

And then I went to the gym, visited a friend, came home and threw a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker (the jury is still out on how that will taste), and did homework.  I had planned to watch a movie, but too busy as it turned out. 

I had really meant to blog about soup.  We have been eating a lot of soup lately.  We LOVE soup and could eat it, or stew, or something in between, every night, so we’ve been cooking pots of stuff that last for days and nobody’s complaining.  Why, on the day we came home with a blizzard threatening, the first thing I did was make soup.  

In Florence, we went out to dinner on a cold night, one of our last nights there.  The little trattoria was just around the corner from VB’s apartment.  VB highly recommended the Pappa al Pomodoro, which is basically just pureed tomatoes, basil and bread!  We shared an order, as I didn’t think I could eat a whole bowl of it.  Every bite was pure heaven.  I mean it.  Now I have to make it myself – or try to!

My older daughter, who shall henceforth be known as Polo Marco (because she journeyed from China to Italy) went for something called Ribbolita.  Or Ribollita.  Either way, it was billed as containing "black cabbage," which our server assured us is a "regional speciality."  (It tasted like Swiss Chard to us.) That soup was as good as, or even better than, the tomato soup.  

When I got home, I just knew I had to try making it myself.  I found several recipes online, and sure enough, they all called for "cavalo nero," which is Italian for "nothing you can find in Wisconsin in the middle of January."  I couldn’t find Swiss Chard, either, but even though I used collard greens, it still tasted pretty awesome.  

This is the recipe I used. Please excuse the formatting.





3/4 cup dried cannellini

beans, soaked overnight and drained


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced


leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced


carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch



1 garlic clove, thinly sliced, plus 1 whole garlic clove

2 sprigs fresh


1 bay leaf

1 pound chopped

cavolo nero (black cabbage), roughly chopped


1/2 pound chopped white cabbage, roughly chopped


2 scant tablespoons tomato paste


3 cups water


4 (1/2-inch) slices Italian peasant bread

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano



Place the presoaked cannellini beans in a medium stockpot. Add water to just cover the beans and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and let the beans simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

In a 12-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, sliced garlic, and herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the black and white cabbages and cook until the cabbage has softened and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme and the

bay leaf. Add the tomato paste, and stir until the tomato paste is well distributed throughout the vegetable mixture.

Preheat the

grill or broiler.

Add the vegetable mixture to the pot with beans and water and let simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes more. When the soup is close to being done, toast or grill the bread until both sides are browned. Cut the remaining garlic clove in half, and rub the toasted bread with the cut end of the garlic. Discard the


Serve the soup hot in 4 warmed bowls with the garlic bruschetta on the side. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano, to taste.


Speaking of cavalo nero, at that same restaurant I ordered a pasta with just olive oil and cavalo nero.  And something else; I forget what. So simple, and yet so amazingly delicious!  

I spoiled it all by deciding to order dessert.  For one thing, I didn’t know what exactly would be in the chestnut cake, although I assumed it was like a flourless, nut-based cake I might make.  For another, I refused any cream or honey topping, so it was rather dry.  And three, if you’re going to order chestnut cake you might first want to stop and consider whether you actually like the taste of chestnuts.  I guess I’d passed one too many chestnuts-roasting-on-open-fire stands, and couldn’t resist any longer. It also had some fresh rosemary…. which made the flavor even more interesting, and less like dessert.

I would have been just fine without this dessert, as it turns out.  The girls loved their tiramisu!

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5 Responses to What game?

  1. wei_k says:

    I really really liked reading this post!! And what’s more, now I know what kind of soup I want to make!!
    If, of course, you remove the, ahem, bourgeous (?) ingredients of things like rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. And substitute canneloni beans for the pre-cooked whatever-the-hell-kind-of-beans-they-sell-at-the-market-pre-cooked for canneloni beans. And tomatoes for tomato paste. And some other kind of greens instead of chard. And some other kind of bread for Italian Peasant Bread.
    umm…. well then I guess I’d have another kind of soup entirely. But then again this is China. Anyway. How did yours turn out? Well? Do you have any suggestions for my alternations?
    p.s. I like that picture of me and Roya. Though we look sooooo different from each other in it.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I love soup, too, and could eat it every night. The tomato-bread soup sounds great — I even have a recipe I could try. Tomatoes in Italy taste better than here, don’t you think? The pasta with black cabbage looks amazing too, and I want some.
    The girls look great and seeing their smiling faces makes me miss them a lot! Remember all those Passover dinners? Sigh. (Polo Marco — hahaha)

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