Lidia's Chard Soup

Uncharted Territory
Carol often has Lidia Bastianich on the kitchen TV when I get home from the Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Usually I treat it as background noise, but this one particular day, she was doing something interesting. I made some notes and put them on the computer, tacked onto her recipe for Bucatini with Italian Tuna and Kalamata Olives. So it was effectively hidden for a few years.

Recently I was at the dentist to be prepped for a crown. Across the street is an A.G. Ferrari store. I had been thinking about Bucatini with tuna, so I stopped in and bought some; Ferrari is the only store I know that has these particular ingredients. (I learned the next day that Cheese Plus, near my house has fresh bucatini and better tuna.) So I got out the recipe and found these notes.

Lidia From the TV
7.7.07
Soup
Make a pestata
Onion, celery, parsley, basil inna food processor
Chop fine but don’t puree
Cook inna pot to caramelize
Add about 2T tomato paste inna hot spot, brown and stir in
Add boiling water
Add chard
Simmer 40 minutes
Put some broth inna sauté pan, poach eggs innit
Grilled bread inna soup bowl, eggs on bread, soup around

Here’s what I did. There is nothing in the notes to suggest amounts, so I borrowed the proportions of onion, celery, carrot, green pepper from K-Paul meatloaf and loaned them to Lidia’s ingredients:

3/4 cup onion
1/2 cup celery
handful parsley
handful basil – didn’t have any, used arugula

I chopped those in my handy little food processor. For the arugula and parsley I stuffed the bowl of the little food processor full and whirled away.

vegetables cook, sausage at the ready

vegetables cook, sausage at the ready

Cooked that with a generous amount of olive oil for about 8 minutes to caramelize the vegetables.

brown the sausage

brown the sausage

cook your tomato paste

cook your tomato paste

Made a “hot spot” by pushing the vegetables to the side of the pot, added an uncased fennel sausage and browned. Mixed that with the vegetables, made another hot spot to brown 2 tablespoons tomato paste.

chard, washed and chopped

chard, washed and chopped

soup cooking

soup cooking

Stirred in washed, chopped Swiss chard and added enough boiling water to make it loose, but not soupy.

My notes said “simmer 40 minutes” (40 minutes!!!). It only takes about 10 minutes to cook chard. That long time must be to get the flavors all working together. I set the timer for 40 minutes and simmered uncovered. I figured less liquid is good. I went to watch the evening news. Next time I was in the kitchen, I tasted the soup, bubbling away… it was plenty tender and tasty, so I turned off the burner. It had simmered 27 minutes.

I toasted two slices of Acme Herb Slab. It was the end of a loaf and plenty stale, being nearly six days old, but won’t matter when it is covered with egg and soup. I poached two eggs in soup broth, adding water to make enough liquid. And as my notes said, “Grilled bread inna soup bowl, eggs on bread, soup around.”

dinner is served

dinner is served

Yum. And Carol said the magic words, “This is good.”

Some NOTES:
Now that the cooking and eating is done, I have a different interpretation of my notes. My notes say, “Make a pestata
Onion, celery, parsley, basil inna food processor.
Chop fine but don’t puree”
I read it as, Make a pestata of onion, celery, parsley, basil inna food processor, Chop fine but don’t puree. So I added the sausage because I thought the dish needed some pork.
What I now think it really means is Make a pestata, then chop onion, celery, parsley, basil inna food processor.

So you cook your vegetables using the pestata as fat – and pork – to give the dish some heartiness.

I Googled “pestata” but didn’t get a definition, per se. What I got was Lidia recipes where she used the term.

In a Minestra recipe on the CBS Early Show web site:

I can still hear the staccato clack-clack-clack of my grandmother’s cleaver on a wooden board as she chopped the pestata, the fine paste of pork fat, garlic, and rosemary, that gave so much flavor to her rich minestra. Occasionally, she would pause and hand me the cleaver: I’d dip it in the boiling soup pot, already full of beans and potatoes, and watch the tiny specks of fat whirl into the broth. After a few moments I’d hand the cleaver back to my nonna, and instantly she’d be chopping again, the hot blade literally melting the thick fat, while the aroma of garlic and pork and beans and rosemary filled the kitchen….

Precious memories! But today I make pestata in the food processor in about 10 seconds!

In notes on Bolognese Sauce (adapated from Lidia’s Family Table) on the blog “The Teacher Learns to Cook”

“The first layer of her Bolognese recipe is a pestata of pancetta (I used bacon) and garlic. Pestata is an Italian verb that means to crush, grind, or pound. The bacon and garlic cloves are indeed ground into a fine paste in the food processor.”

Since I learned to make poached eggs, I seem to be drawn to dishes that use poached eggs… Not a bad thing.

TO RECAP:

1.Wash and chop one bunch of Swiss chard. Set aside.
2. Make a pestata – Chop 3 ounces bacon and 3 fat cloves garlic and combine in a food processor, pulse until you have a fine paste.
Chop 3/4 cup onion, 1/2 cup celery, a handful parsley, and a handful basil in a food processor.
Cook the pestata until it releases some nice fat, add the vegetables and some olive oil and cook about 8 minutes to caramelize the vegetables.
5. Make a “hot spot” by pushing the vegetables to the side of the pot, to brown 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
6. Stir in your washed, chopped Swiss chard and add enough boiling water to make it loose, but not soupy. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes until the chard is tender and tastes good.
7. Grill two slices bread. Poach two eggs in soup broth, adding water if required to make enough liquid. Put a slice of grilled bread in each warmed soup bowl, place a poached egg on each slice and ladle soup around.

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