Saturday, October 23, 2010


It happens to all of us. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We all grab the fresh, warm, beautiful crunchy baguette at the bakery, or fill our kitchens with the lovely smell of our own fresh bread, fully intending to eat the entire thing in one sitting. Sometimes we do. But oftentimes we end up the next day with a half-eaten loaf that resembles a broken wooden bat. Now what?

My mother always used to keep all the heels of bread in the freezer for future use. After a few months, we ended up with a freezer full of plastic bags with a few slices of bread each. When we reached critical frozen bread mass, she'd take them all out and make homemade bread crumbs.

Like my mother, I also throw hard bread in the freezer for future use. When in Italy I found a new use for old bread - ribollita. This traditional Italian dish is another one of those things where you pretty much use what you have on hand in terms of vegetables and meat. It usually contains pancetta, but I chose to make it vegetarian.


  • 1/2 C cannellini dried beans, rehydrated for 8 hours (or a can of beans)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (add a few chopped carrots and celery if you have them)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped (use a can of tomatoes are not in season)
  • 1/2 bunch rainbow chard (kale in the original recipe, but chard is tasty and in season)
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 2 C vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you want it to be meatier)
  • 4 C stale bread, cut to pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra special olive oil, for drizzling

Cover dry beans with water in the morning and place covered on the counter while you're at work. They'll be ready to go when you get home.

After rehydrating the beans, cook the beans in about 5 cups of water over medium heat for between 45 minutes and an hour, till tender.

While cooking the beans, blanche the tomatoes and cut up all the other ingredients.

When the beans are almost done, saute the onions (and carrots and celery) over medium high heat in olive oil till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more. Then add the rest of the vegetables and white wine and cover. Season with salt to taste.

When the chard wilts, add the stock and bread and mix thoroughly. Cook until the bread is soggy and well integrated. Add water as needed, but note that this shouldn't really be soupy. Add the beans.

To serve, place in a bowl. Crack pepper on top and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, either Italian or Greek style to add that extra earthy, spiciness.

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