Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Soup


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I'm not on New Year cleanse or diet, but after all the cookies and cocktails of December, I crave simple food that won't burden my wallet or my waistline. A recipe for Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup caught my eye when I was flipping through a book of Italian vegetable cookery in my friend's living room the other day (in front of a fire, even). I have to confess, I didn't actually read the recipe, but the idea stuck in my head. Here's a soup with only two main ingredients that are nutritious and cheap as heck—what's not to love?

There are always a couple of dried-out ends of Parmesan in my fridge, waiting to flavor broth. If you haven't tried this yet, you are in for a treat—and you'll no longer feel guilty when you don't finish that expensive Parmigiano Reggiano before it gets hard as a rock.

Cabbage is truly an underrated vegetable, and even in the dead of winter it's in season. I don't think cabbage is about to be as trendy as kale, but it's got a lot more to offer than just a side of slaw. Braise it, saute it, stew it or ferment it. It's cheap, it's versatile, and lasts a lot longer than a head of lettuce in the crisper drawer (or even kale, for that matter). 

So lets make soup. You just need olive oil, garlic, Savoy cabbage (that's the round wrinkly one), salt, bay leaf, chili flakes (optional), and bread. 

Heat a little olive oil in a big heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Crush and peel a few cloves of garlic, or more than a few, and toss them into the pot. Chop a whole head of Savoy cabbage into large bite-sized pieces. Add the cabbage to the pot and turn the heat to high. Saute until the cabbage and garlic are browned at the edges. Now fill the pot with water to cover the cabbage by a few inches, and add a spoonful of salt and a bay leaf if you have one. Simmer the soup until the cabbage is soft, longer if you have time, adding more water if it doesn't look brothy enough. Isn't it amazing how much flavor you can get from a few simple ingredients?!

Serve the soup drizzled with more olive oil, and sprinkled with chili flakes and sea salt. A garlic crostini is the perfect accompainment (soaked in your bowl of soup until it's soft and crunchy at the same time). Here's how to make the crostini: turn on the oven to 400, slice stale bread and rub it with garlic, put a lot of olive oil on a cookie sheet and rub both sides of the bread in it (throw the garlic on the pan too), put it in the oven and toast until golden and crisp on both sides. 

This soup may be incredibly frugal, but it tastes rich. Poach an egg in the broth if you crave some protein, serve this as a first course before pasta, or simply enjoy it in its ordinary glory.