Mothers’ Day approaches. Fathers and children are perplexed. You would love to cook a wonder for Mom, but, let’s face it, the kitchen is her domain. Her cooking skills are better than yours, much better. Now what?
Time for a history lesson.
Before there was a Rome, Central and Northern Italy had a wonderful civilization call the Etruscans. The Etruscans were eventually absorbed by Rome, and details of that society remained in the shadows for thousands of years. In the past decades, though, more and more knowledge about the Etruscans has emerged. For example, their food.
The Etruscans made a dish called a pul, which was a thick combination of grains, beans, and vegetables cooked together. That pul is the ancestor of Parma’s minestre, which in Parma is physically denser than the regular Italian minestrones you may have enjoyed. In Parma today, a minestre is more of a stew-soup. While meat can be a component, beans or rice are often used.
This recipe, from The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli, presents a rice and cabbage stew-soup that any husband can do. Really. There’s some chopping involved, so older children can help Dad in creating this one-pot meal. Add a glass of wine, perhaps a simple salad, and a rose on the side. Mom will be thrilled. Dad may find himself recruited for kitchen duty.
The wine and cheese ingredients here could be added at the end of the cooking, but tradition is to serve the soup and cheese on the side and let each diner add their own portions. In our picture above, some green herbs have been added for color and a spark of flavor. As with any soup, you can use your imagination to make this dish personal and loving.
The Cooking of Parma was published in 1996, but we still pull it off the shelf to enjoy the secrets and flavors of Parma’s regional food.
Minestra Di Riso E Cavolo
Yield: serves 4
- 1 ½ quarts meat broth or good-quality store-bought
- 1 carrot
- 1 green celery rib
- 1 medium onion
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 large bay leaves
- 4 cups 1-inch cubes cabbage
- 1 cup Italian or long-grain rice
- ½ cup peas [ideally fresh, but frozen works, too]
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put the broth in a soup pot over medium heat. Dice the carrots, celery, and onion and add to the broth. When the broth reaches a slow boil, add the herbs. When the vegetables are half-cooked, in about 20 minutes, add the cabbage and rice. When the rice is al dente, add the peas and scallion, season to taste with the salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the peas are cooked through but not mushy. Add the parsley and remove the pot from the heat. Pass the wine and the cheese at the table.
Source: The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli
Around the corner from us in Tribeca years ago, there was a glorious neighborhood spot called Good Enough to Eat. Our version is long gone but there is still an outpost uptown. Of course, Downtowners never go uptown so …
The food was lovely and has been perfectly captured in the Good Enough to Eat Cookbook. This Split Pea soup is our favorite soup recipe, from any restaurant, from any cookbook. Anyplace, anytime. It’s a meal in itself and the cookbook says in Belgium they do just that: make a meal of this soup topped with toasted bread and accompanied by a beer.
I love the soup itself, but I do have some mixed feelings about Good Enough.
I was reading the menu one Sunday as we sat there.
“Look,” Suzen said, “it’s Tom Cruise!”
True enough, it was him, with the hair and a leather jacket. The entire room had gone quiet as if a Kennedy had entered. Every woman seemed to be leaning in her seat. Including Suzen. I liked Risky Business and Top Gun, but my God …
“What are you going to order?” I asked Suzen
“Look, it’s Tom Cruise.”
“I’m having the soup.”
“Look, it’s Tom Cruise.”
“He really is short,” I noted.
“Look, it’s Tom Cruise.”
I ate my soup. I don’t remember what Suzen had and I sure as hell don’t care what Tom Cruise ordered. Apparently, he could have had anything he wanted.
Split Pea Soup
Yield: 1 ½ cups
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ham hock or leftover ham bone
- 1 pound dried split peas, washed and drained
- 7 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound carrots, chunked
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
- Toasted bread for topping off
Sweat the onion, celery, and garlic in butter and oil 15 to 20 minutes, until soft. Add the ham hock or bone, peas, stock, sugar, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat 1 hour. Add the carrots and thyme and cook 45 minutes longer. Check for seasonings.
Serve hot, topped with toasted bread.
This soup freezes beautifully and makes an easy meal when you’ve had a busy day.
Source: Good Enough to Eat by Carrie Levin