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This will become your favorite wintertime soup

It's Zuppa di cavolo nero – Red Cabbage and Bean soup from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook.  Good as it looks, it tastes even better.  (Check out her recipe below).

This is definitely one of those soups that tastes even better the next day and the day after that – assuming you can make it last that long. The recipe is a little time-consuming. If you'd like something faster try the Moosewood Cream of Spinach soup Nancy Leson made.

Red Cabbage and Bean Soup

Note:  If you can't find fresh pork rind or don't want to use it, then just leave it out. I've subbed a little unflavored gelatin powder mixed with a tablespoon of cold water when my pork rind supply ran low. I think it adds a certain silky texture but I could be imagining that. 

1/4 lb fresh pork rind. 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic 2 Tablespoons chopped onion 2 Tablespoons thinly shredded pancetta 1/4 cup olive oil 1 pound coarsely shredded red cabbage 1/3 cup chopped celery 3 Tablespoons canned Italian Tomato, drained and chopped (I use a small can of paste instead) pinch of thyme 3 Cups meat broth or 1 cup canned beef broth mixed with 2 cups water 1/2 lb mild Italian sausage 1 cup dried Great Northern beans or other white beans. For the flavored oil: 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary. 1. Soak the beans overnight in water to cover by two inches. Drain and over again by two inches. Bring to a boil, then cover and put into 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, till cooked. Set aside, leaving beans in water. 2. Cover the pork rind with water and boil for 1 minute. Remove, cool and shred. 3. Sautee' garlic, onion and pancetta in the oil in a large pot till lightly colored. 4. Add cabbage, celery, tomato, thyme and pork rind. Cook over medium-low heat till cabbage has wilted. 5. Add broth, salt and pepper to taste, cover and cook very low for 2-1/2-3 hours. 6. Off the heat uncover the pot, tilt it and draw off as much of that fat that rises to the surface as possible. 7. Brown the sausages. Return pot to a simmer. 8. Add the sausages, drained of their fat. Puree half the beans and stir them into the pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining whole beans and simmer for another 10 minutes. 9. In a small pot add crushed garlic cloves to olive oil and heat gently till golden. Add rosemary and stir, then strain the flavored oil into the soup pot. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Instead of the obvious crusty Italian bread, last time I served this soup with a dense pumpernickel slices and I liked it fine that way. Whatever you do don't skip the flavored oil. It really makes this recipe!

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup."

–H.L. Mencken

Food for Thought” is a weekly KPLU feature covering the world of food as well as the thinking that goes into it. The feature is published here and airs on KPLU 88.5 every Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

Dick Stein has been with KNKX since January, 1992. His duties include hosting the morning jazz show and co-hosting and producing the Food for Thought feature with the Seattle Times’ Nancy Leson. He was writer and director of the three Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen. Previous occupations include the USAF, radio call-in show host, country, classical and top-40 DJ, chimney sweep, window washer and advertising copywriter.