May 27, 2009

Brodo di Ristorante Cibreo

I posted a photo of my yellow pepper soup on facebook. I was asked for the recipe, so I thought to write about it.
It's a hot day in Florence, and a chilled soup from last night, tastes all the better today. I love pureed soups, summer or winter. They make the most elegant dish. Florence was not a pasta eating town. They preferred soups..usually hearty ones like Ribollita and Pappa al pomodoro. Yet, from what I have noticed, taking the rustic and refining it, is what Florence is all about.

Fabio Picchi, chef of Ristorante Cibreo, made this his signature soup. The color alone calms madness. I used to love to pop into the kitchen and see Fabio creating these velvety soups with his huge industrialized hand wand. I have eaten countless bowls of this soup, more often in Cibreo Cafe' across the street. It's legendary.

Fabio's son Giulio, stayed a month with me once in Colorado when he was 15. He was fascinated by America and brought his skate board to prove it. Unfortunately, his first run ended in a broken wrist. Home all of sudden seemed very far away. It was that moment that Giulio found his Italian roots in my kitchen. He took an interest in cooking. Both his parents are chefs, so what was the need before? The need came when he was far away from home. I am quite proud of the fact that I was able to teach him some knife skills. The rest he did on his own. He already had the best training of all. His palate. He went to town creating from taste memory alone, the beloved dishes of his youth. This 15 year old whom had never cooked, prepared a scrumptious meal of yellow pepper soup, bistecca alla Fiorentina in the home fireplace, roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, and some special cookies from Mom (Benedetta Vitali of Zibibbo); for 10 people. He absolutely nailed the soup. Everything else was great too. But the soup was memorable, as it tasted exactly as it should have. The palate has an intelligence of it's own. Taste and smell can lead us home. Guilio is now 27 and a pillar in the Picchi restaurant empire.

A traditional recipe for Yellow Pepper soup can be found in the small 'Cibreo' cookbook by Benedetta Vitali, that used to grace the shelves at the restaurant for the equivalent of $10 if you are lucky enough to have a copy. Her book 'Soffritto', may have it as well. I don't have a copy with me to check. Otherwise, you can find the recipe on-line, but you must look carefully.

This is my version~ without the soffritto. ( a slow simmer of the finely chopped holy trinity of carrot, celery and onion).
It's not meant to be the same soup of Cibreo, although most definitely inspired by. It's meant to be a quick evening soup that tastes good warm when fresh, but even better cool in the following day's summer heat.

Chilled Yellow Pepper Soup

3 yellow peppers, (as local and seasonal as you can find them)
2 yellow fin potatoes, peeled and chopped coursely
1 red onion, peeled and chopped coursely
1/2 cup of grated parimgiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

Saute' onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add the peppers and saute until they become slightly limp. Add potatoes and once the flavors are sealed, add water to cover. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Adjust liquid level, salt and pepper to taste. Start to blend soup with a hand wand, or feel free to use a blender. Once the soup is properly blended, smooth and velvety, you're there. 'E lei'. It's her. As the Italians say..

The soup can be put back on the flame to simmer for another few minutes. A handful of aged parmigiano reggiano can be stirred in. When chilled, like to serve the soup with a dollap of yogurt (don't kill me Fabio!), a sprinkle of Pierre Cousseau's 'Le Grande Sale' (a salt blend with pepperoncino) and a drizzle of olive oil.

It's sun in a bowl.

I recommend having a bowl of it at Cibreo the next time or first time you have the opportunity. It will soothe your soul.
Ps. Don't eat it close to your computer like I did for lunch today. That was a 'one and only' dangerous thing to do. Not at all 'slow food at the table' as usual...But! What can I say?? For me, life is a culinary adventure. Taste dangerously!

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