Zuppa di verdura stufata
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.
Collander, heavy saucpan with cover.
- 1 lb eggplant (1 or 2 small eggplants)
- sea salt
- 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
- 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.
Flavors of Puglia
Nancy Harmon Jenkins