"This is peasant soup," say the authors of a new cookbook featuring the foods of Sicily, and I'm sure they meant that in the nicest way. The recipe calls for inexpensive ingredients and whatever vegetables are on hand.
There's also shmaltz - glorious chicken fat, which provides an unmistakable umami note. Buy a small container of it now and stash it in your freezer for use during the holidays; melt a little into caramelizing onions on the stove top or fry some latkes in it, for starters. If that's not in your wheelhouse, you can use extra-virgin olive oil instead.
The rice is brown, and we've used the instant kind to keep things quick. You'll see that this recipe from "Sicily: Recipes From an Italian Island" by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant) makes more than you can eat in an evening, but this soup will keep for almost a week and will welcome add-ins of shredded rotisserie chicken or napa cabbage - or even a whisked-in egg, a la egg drop soup - for subsequent, different meals.
TOMATO AND RICE SOUP
SERVINGS: 6 to 8 (makes about 9 cups), Healthy
You can use extra-virgin olive oil to keep things vegetarian.
The recipe makes a big batch, but you can change it up from day to day by adding a protein such as cooked beans or chickpeas or shredded rotisserie chicken.
The original dish calls for a final flourish of garlicky toasted bread crumbs with Parmesan, which certainly sounds like a fine idea if you have a few more minutes to spend and an accommodating pantry.
Adapted from "Sicily: Recipes From an Italian Island," by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant Books, 2016).
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons shmaltz (rendered chicken fat; may substitute additional extra-virgin olive oil; see headnote)
• 3 small carrots
• 1 medium onion
• 3 ribs celery
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double-concentrated
• 1 cup instant brown rice (uncooked)
• 8 cups no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth
• 2 bay leaves
• One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added canned plum tomatoes, plus their juices
• 3 1/2 ounces baby spinach leaves
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil and schmaltz in a heavy Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat.
Meanwhile, scrub the carrots well. Peel the onion. Cut the carrots, onion and celery into small dice (about 1 cup each), stirring them into the pot as you work. Season generously with salt and black pepper, and the crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables begin to soften. Reduce the heat as needed if any of their edges begin to brown.
Clear a space at the center of the pot; add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant, then stir in the brown rice, broth, bay leaves and the tomatoes and their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
Uncover and discard the bay leaves. Use a potato masher to further break down the tomatoes and any vegetables. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
Stir in the spinach leaves just before serving.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 8, using schmaltz, 3/4 teaspoon salt and vegetable broth): 190 calories, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar