I’ve been looking at this recipe since the October issue of La Cucina Italiana magazine arrived…

I loved everything about it – except for the fact that Victor really dislikes cabbage in virtually all of its various incarnations.  No Corned Beef and Cabbage on St Paddy’s Day, no Stuffed Cabbage Rolls… No cabbage chopped up and added to vegetable soup.

Fortunately, he has a bazillion and one other redeeming qualities, so I can forgive him this one little gastronomic idiosyncrasy…

But as I was looking at the picture and the recipe, I was thinking that something else could be used in place of the cabbage – in fact, just about anything!  A concept was forming.

Here’s the magazine recipe:

crema di ceci con pollo e cavolo rosso


  • 1 1/2  cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4  pound skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 pound red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (4 1 /2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Fresh thyme leaves


Soak chickpeas in water to cover by 2 inches overnight (8 hours), then drain.
Simmer chickpeas in water to cover by 2 inches in a large pot, partially covered with lid, adding more water if necessary, until tender, 1 to 1 1/4  hours.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, season lightly with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Return pan to heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, cabbage and pinch salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add wine and 2 tablespoons water; cook for 1 minute more. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until wine has evaporated and cabbage is tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Drain chickpeas. Set aside 1/2 cup chickpeas. In a blender, purée remaining chickpeas with 1 3⁄4 cups vegetable broth until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan. Bring chickpea purée just to a low boil, stirring occasionally; thin with some of the remaining broth, if desired. Remove purée from heat and season with salt to taste.

Divide purée among 4 bowls. Top with cabbage, chicken and reserved chickpeas. Garnish with thyme leaves. Serve warm.

What a great picture.  What a great idea.  Of course, I had to change everything!

The first change was going from a chick pea soup to a sweet potato and bean soup.  I had two small sweet potatoes that needed cooking – one yellow and one deep orange.  They would forn the base of the soup along with a can of great northern white beans.

The chicken became beef from those lovely tenderloins this morning.  The cabbage became spinach and the garnish was some of the oven-dried tomatoes we made a few days back.

Isn’t it good to have a recipe to follow?!?


Actually, more than anything, this shows the fun you can have in the kitchen.  Recipes are concepts that can give one a starting point.  They’re ideas – not absolutes.

So… here’s my idea…

Sweet Potato Soup with Beef and Spinach

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 qt broth (I used chicken because that’s what I had in the house.)
  • 1/2 cup marsala
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until wilted.  Add marsala and cook a few minutes more.

Add broth, potatoes, carrots, and seasonings and cook until potatoes and carrots are mushy.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth.  Thin with more broth, if necessary, to reach desired consistency.

Check for seasonings and add more S&P, if desired.

Meanwhile… cook beef.

  • 1/2 pound  good-quality beef, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup marsala
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp red chile flakes
  • S&P, to taste

In a small skillet, brown beef in a drizzle of olive oil. Add marsala and spices.  Continue cooking until wine has evaporated.

Steam Spinach

Place several handfuls of damp spinach in a dry skillet.  Add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, and cook until completely wilted.

To Serve:

Ladle soup into bowl.  Float spinach atop soup and then carefully add beef cubes, keeping them from sinking into the soup.

Top with julienned tomatoes.

The soup probably took an hour to make, start-to-finish.  I was probably in the kitchen for about 30 minutes.  It’s just three simple things stacked upon one another.

Provided the base soup is something thick, the possibilities with this are pretty endless!

And we just happen to be entering into Soup Season!