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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

When I first made this soup, Florida was in the grips of a cold weather snap, the likes of which rarely happens in this part of the state. We’re talking a whole week of lows in the 30s. The 30s!

It was everything I ever wanted and more — the rare winter temps, yes, but also this soup. It is not only warm temperature-wise, but warm with savory spices and full of deep flavor.

I’m also happy to report that it holds up in any kind of weather, and tastes at least 60 percent better each day you let it sit in your fridge. The first batch was good; the second batch two days later was great; and the third batch that I froze and then reheated may have been the best one yet.

This soup is appropriate for this week’s cover story, in which I try to see just how difficult it is to get the government’s daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. According to a recent study: "Just 12 percent of Americans eat the minimum daily fruit recommendation of one and a half to two cups per day, and only 9 percent consume the minimum daily vegetable recommendation of two to three cups per day."

Yeah, it’s not that easy! But recipes like this soup help; in fact, they are necessary. This is essentially nothing but vegetables, plus a generous helping of beans.

I also love this dish because it is so good for meal planning, a 2018 goal I am definitely going to stick to and not abandon in two months, I promise. This made about three lunches each for me and my husband, a one-Pyrex-container leftover that is easy to transport and heat up.

This soup is more adventurous than it may seem, as it gets its warm, savory oomph from a spice blend called hawaij. I hadn’t heard of the spice mixture used often in Israeli cuisine, but it adds just the right amount of flair to an otherwise straightforward soup.

Hawaij is easy to make if you’ve got the necessary ingredients. If not, that’s okay. Use as many as you have, or a teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and paprika to flavor the soup. To make the hawaij, combine the following in a small bowl and use as directed in the recipe:

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of cayenne pepper

It should come as no surprise that I am not really able to fully enjoy soup unless it is paired with some sort of bready side, like a baguette or a cracker. In this case, that carb is pita. The recipe is called Pita Ribollita because the original calls for tearing up pieces of pita and stirring them into the soup so they become soggy bits of bread that help thicken things up. This is classic ribollita, which is a traditional Italian-style soup made with vegetables and bread.

It’s very yummy this way, but I prefer to eat my soup with the pita on the side, so that’s what I’ve advised here. I made my own pita, because I am forever spoiled by the from-scratch version. (You can find that recipe now at starkfromscratch.com.) They’re so warm and fluffy and I don’t even fully understand how they form into their pita shape given the cooking steps that are involved; it’s magic.

Also, you could skip the pita altogether if you’re trying to keep things in a strictly no-carb lane. In that case, you have much more willpower than I do.

Pita Ribollita

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons hawaij (see recipe above)

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 (14-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Plain greek yogurt, for serving

Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Pita, for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic, hawaij, cayenne pepper and a few turns of black pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, broth and beans and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Ladle into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a plop of yogurt and a sprinkle of parsley, if desired. Serve with pita on the side.

Serves 8.

Source: adapted from Molly Yeh

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