Tuscan Ministrone di Verdure with Salsa Verde and the Durham Farmers' Market
This Saturday we will be at one of our first loves, The Durham Farmers' Market with a recipe from one of our favorite cuisines, la cucina povera. And it just so happens that blogger and cookbook author Giulia Scarpaleggia has just published a new book on the same techniques, preservation, and cooking of the rural Italian peasants. This book is so interesting that it has inspired our recipe for our market tasting this weekend.
In May 2022, I was able to spend a month in Florence, Tuscany, and Emilia-Romagna and it was such a treat to be able to eat my way through one of the most celebrated culinary regions in the world. Some food experiences can never be toppled from the altar of my food memories. Bollito with salsa verde and chile sauce is one of them (also raw milk, fresh pecorino will always have a place in the pantheon of my heart). The simple and tender beef sandwich, made by broth-braising a beef roast and combining it the herbal acidity of the salsa verde on a crusty kaiser roll is unctuous, vegetal, and familiar all at the same time.
Tuscan salsa verde's parsley and garlic forward flavor enhances practically anything savory from soup to pasta sauces to grilled meats to dishes as simple as scrambled eggs or cooked beans. It's a powerful hitter in your fridge through the entire year - as the seasons change, so can your herbal preferences. In the spring, oregano and fennel take their turn. In summer, switch out half (or all) of the parsley with basil. While not traditional, in winter you could easily modify your mix in deference to local fresh kale and dill. More traditional versions add a hard-boiled egg into the recipe for some extra protein. And that's the core tenet of la cucina povera - use what is in season and be versatile with how to make humble ingredients into something special and delicious.
So, we thought we could make a bold minestrone soup that features a vegetables fully sourced from the Durham Farmers' Market and stock made from Bull City Farm turkey legs and thighs. If you haven't found them yet, seek them out at the Wednesday Durham Farmers' Market - their products are high quality and incredibly flavorful. And buying from them supports a local farm family and keeps your money in your community just a little longer.
Tuscan Minestrone di Verdure with Salsa Verde
Inspired by Giulia Scarpaleggia’s Ministrone di Verdura in Cucina Povera.
Ministrone di Verdure
1 pound chickpeas, cooked (or canned)
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 white onion, diced
1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 stalk green garlic, sliced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 cup Hakurei turnips, diced
2 cups escarole, chopped
4 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 cup turkey or chicken, chopped
2 cups short pasta like ditalini or pipette (optional)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon black fennel fronds
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
~1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the chickpeas:
If using canned chickpeas, drain the chickpeas and wash with cool water to remove any residual canning liquid from them. Then skip the rest of this section.
- Pick over chickpeas looking for stones, shriveled chickpeas, or other debris. Place chickpeas in colander and wash off any remaining dust or dirt using cold water. Place cleaned chickpeas in a large bowl and then cover with 2-3 inches of water. Leave chickpeas to soak for 8 hours or overnight.
- Once soaked, drain the chickpeas and place in a large pot. Cover them with water to 2 inches above the chickpeas. Bring water to a gentle boil, allowing chickpeas to simmer about 1½ hours or until they are firm (leave the lid off the pot).
- To check for doneness, simply take a fork and squish one on the side of the pot. The chickpea should feel firm, but still squishable. You can also sample a bean to make sure it's not still grainy on the inside. Remove chickpeas from the stove and drain. Set aside to cool.
Assemble the pesto:
This is a super easy condiment to make if you have a food processor or immersion blender, but a good knife works well to chop the herbs and capers prior to adding the vinegar and olive oils (this will be a bit more rustic but still incredibly delicious). Salsa verde can be stored in a fridge for up to a week.
Place all herbs, garlic, and capers into the food processor bowl.
- If using a food processor or immersion blender, add all ingredients to the processer bowl or a deep jar. Using the pulse function, chop and emulsify the ingredients until you can
- While pulsing the mixture with your food processor, pour in the olive oil in stream to help emulsify the mixture. The idea is to blend the flavors together while also being able to taste the individual ingredients, so do not over process and make a smooth paste.
Assemble the soup:
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over low heat. Add onion and season with a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 – 8 minutes.
- Add the carrots, green garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, escarole, and turnips. Stir them into the onions. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add turkey stock, meat, and chickpeas into the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the pasta to the pot and allow to cook to an al dente (this is usually one to two minutes below the cooking time on the package, but you do you here).
- Ladle into bowls, adding a dollop of salsa verde and a drizzle of olive oil on top.