'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 schmaltz - glorious chicken fat, which provides an unmistakable umami note. If that's not in your pantry, you can use extra-virgin olive oil instead.
Makes 6 to 8 servings (about 9 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or extra-virgin olive oil
3 small carrots
1 medium onion
3 ribs celery
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 broth
2 bay leaves
One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added plum tomatoes, with juice
31/2 ounces baby spinach leaves
1. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil and schmaltz in a heavy Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Stir in the spinach leaves just before serving.
- Adapted from Sicily: Recipes From an Italian Island, (Hardie Grant Books, 2016).