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Tuscan style Minestrone
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Makes 12 Servings. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Cut the cabbage into quarters through the core. Cut the core out of two of the quarters and slice them as thinly as possible. Boil the sliced cabbage for 5 minutes and drain it in a colander. Rinse it with cold water. (This preliminary cooking eliminates some of the strong taste and prevents it from taking over the flavor of the soup.) In a 4-quart pot, cook the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot in the olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the blanched cabbage, kale, potato, broth, tomatoes, and bouquet garni. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Strain half the cooked beans through a food mill with the finest disk or puree them in a blender or food processor. Add the puree and the whole beans to the simmering soup. Simmer the soup for about 5 minutes more. Add spinach. Simmer soup for 1 minute more. Add salt and pepper to taste. The soup can now be ladled into hot bowls, but if you want to present it in the traditional (and make it suitable for a next-day ribolita or casserole), layer it in a tureen with the bread slices alternating a ladle of soup with a slice of bread and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Pass the cheese at the table. Suggestions and variations: If you make the thick layered-bread version of this soup, it is delicious the next day served as a casserole with a light salad. Spread the cold congealed soup in a porcelain or glass casserole; sprinkle it with grated Parmesan cheese and some olive oil. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
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