The Tuscan Way
BY DANA JACOBI
FOR THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CANCER RESEARCH
you have been in solitary confinement for a decade, you have
heard a lot about Tuscany, Italy. It has been both extolled as
paradise on earth and cursed as a tourist-ridden parking lot
full of either English or Americans expatriates renovating ancient
villas under a glorious Tuscan sun.
is more the latter than the former. Any small, stone farmhouse
far enough off the beaten track so that it costs less than your
entire life savings will be so run down that you will freeze
in the winter and boil in the summer for the decade needed to
navigate the vagaries of Italian law and temperament all
long before you have created your dream house. I know, because
a friend who emigrated here from Italy in the sixties owned such
an enchanting hovel, complete with olive trees and grape vines,
on a hilltop with stunning views, but minus a roof or running
water. Finding a buyer with a bottomless budget took 20 years.
gave me several decades to visit Tuscany with my friend, staying
with her family and sharing their traditional meals. They started
with fettunta, grilled bread rubbed with garlic,
then drizzled with olive oil. It was the ideal introduction to
elementally simple Tuscan food, including its distinctively peppery
extra virgin olive oil, rich in polyphenols that are potent antioxidants.
day we ate beans and heaping plates of cavolo nero
(sold here as Dinosaur, Black or Tuscan kale), boiled until tender
and mild, then drizzled with oil. Sunday dinners were risotto
made from farro, an ancient variety of whole wheat native to
the area, and the weeks serving of meat. You knew from
what was on the grill or from the size of the roast that there
would be no seconds, but after the farro, we felt no need for
extra helpings. Sold at specialty stores here, the farros
softer taste and texture also makes great pilaf and salads.
mostly use canned beans now, but Tuscan eating sometimes inspires
me to soak dried chickpeas and then simmer them for this easy
soup. Besides tasting great, this soup avoids the high levels
of sodium found in most canned beans.
- Makes 6 servings or 6 cups.
cans (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
large whole garlic cloves, peeled
can (14 1/4 oz.) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
medium onion, chopped
Tbsp. tomato paste
tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
and freshly ground black pepper
tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish (optional)
tsp. lemon juice (optional)
1/2 Tbsp. minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
the chickpeas and garlic in a large saucepan. Pour the broth
into a one-quart measuring cup and add cold water to make 4 cups
of liquid. Add the liquid to the pot and over medium-high heat,
bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until
the beans are very soft, 20 minutes. Let the soup sit 10 minutes
to cool slightly.
heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the
onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft, about
5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender.
the chickpeas, garlic, liquid, tomato paste and rosemary. Purée
until smooth. This may need to be done in 2 batches. Make the
soup smooth or leave some texture, as you prefer. Season to taste
with salt and pepper.
serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each either by drizzling
1/2-teaspoon of olive oil over the soup, or by mixing in 1 teaspoon
lemon juice. Sprinkle with the parsley.
Per serving: 142 calories, 3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated
fat), 21 g. carbohydrate, 8 g. protein, 5 g. dietary fiber, 372