Zuppa di verdura stufata Puglia
Preparation - Medium/difficult; Prep: 2 hours (allow eggplant to lose some water - Cook: 1 hr.
Serves 6 - 8
Stufata means a cooking technique similar to a braise, in which the ingredients are cooked in little or no water; the juices from the vegetables themselves serve to give the soup its requisite "soupiness." This makes a very thick soup that should be served immediately, otherwise the vegetables absorb the small amount of liquid and it becomes more like a ciambotta, still delicious but no longer really a soup.
1 lb eggplant (1 or 2 small eggplants)
1 large or 2 medium potatoes
1 medium carrot
2 medium red or yellow bell peppers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for garnish
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped in 1-inch lengths
1/2 lb (1 bunch) fresh green or red chard, thinly sliced
1/2 lb green beans, sliced in 1-inch lengths
5 to 6 ripe red tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium zucchini, cubed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 or 4 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 small dried hot red chile pepper, if desired
Collander, heavy saucpan with cover.
Cut the eggplant in 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a colander, sprinkling them liberally with salt. Weight the eggplant with a can set on a small plate and set the colander in the sink to drain for at least 1 hour. Then rinse the cubes thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut the potatoes and carrot into cubes the same size as the eggplant.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, discard the seeds and inner white membranes, and slice thinly.
Add the oil to a big heavy saucepan or rondeau large enough to hold all the vegetables and place over medium-high heat.
Quickly sauté the eggplant and potato cubes for about 5 minutes, or until they just start to brown along the edges.
Stir in the onion and celery, lower the heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring until the onion softens and starts to turn golden.
Add the carrot, chard, green beans, and peppers and stir to combine everything well.
Add 1/2 cup hot water to the vegetables in the pan, cover, and cook together for about 5 minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, zucchini, and the aromatics, together with the hot pepper if desired.
Add a pinch of salt, cover tightly, and cook for 30 minutes, adding a very little water from time to time if necessary.
Remove oregano sprigs, bay leaf and rosemary sprig before serving.
Garnish each serving with a thin drizzle of olive oil.