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Tuscan Minestra with Kale and Farro

Making this soup Tuscan are two regional specialties -- farro and black kale. If we were there, we'd use special farro from north of Siena and the dark kale called cavolo nero. We'll substitute American kale or chard and use farro available at Pennsylvania Macaroni or spelt from health food store.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 large cloves garlic, sliced thin
3 medium carrots, cut into
1/2-inch dice
2 medium stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bunch kale or dark chard, stems removed, chopped
1/2 14-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice
3 sprigs rosemary, chopped fine
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
1 baking potato, peeled and diced

14-ounce cans chicken broth or 4 to 6 cups homemade
Rind from 1/2 pound or more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
2 cups dried cannellini, white pinto beans or dried navy beans, soaked, covered by at least 4 inches of water overnight (or 3 14-ounce cans beans)
1 ham hock
1 cup farro, simmered in water to cover until just tender, about 45 minutes, drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put olive oil in large heavy skillet or Dutch oven with onions, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook slowly, covered, for 25 minutes. Cook slowly 15 minutes more. Remove lid. Raise heat slightly. Cook, stirring occasionally, till lightly browned, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer vegetable mixture, adding kale and tomatoes, to soup kettle. Add rosemary, sage, parsley and bay leaves. Add potato, beans and ham hock. Add chicken broth and water to cover by about an inch. Add the cheese rind. Cover partially and cook at a very low boil for at least 3 hours.

If necessary, you can stop the cooking at any time and resume it later. Cook until it is soupy thick and beans are tender but not collapsing. Be prepared to add liquid if needed. Remove cheese rind. Puree 4 cups or more of the soup and return to the pot. Stir in cooked farro. Stir in cheese or pass separately. Don't forget to pass olive oil for drizzling and a peppermill. Serves 8 to 10 as a main dish.

Adapted from Antinori

Thursday, February 15, 2001

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