America is a country of extremes- they just don’t do things by half, it’s all or nothing. Portion sizes are huge. When you order a muffin you’ll get a muffin large enough to feed your entire family, and some. At an event I went to last summer they weren’t selling meagre chicken drumsticks but deep fried turkey legs- the length of my arm and the circumference of my thigh. I was told a taste of one of these cave-man-like delicacies makes a person weak at the knees. What I didn’t ask was whether the knee weakness was due to the clogged arteries preventing blood flow to the brain or because they tasted so unbelievably good. I’m going to hope that it’s the latter but assume that it’s the former. But it’s not just size that is extreme or obscene (you decide) that I’m thinking about. Right now, as I’m sitting in my apartment in a sleeveless tee shirt and shorts with the widows open in the middle of January I’m thinking about extreme temperatures. It’s freezing outside. Apparently it’s going to get even colder and this is just the effect of global warming. But meanwhile I’m sitting in my sauna/apartment desperate for some cooler air so that for just once I might be able to go to bed and snuggle-up under my duvet without perspiring like the man controlling the turkey fryer. I was expecting to feel this kind of heat in the summer- but this included getting a tan. I shouldn’t complain, as I don’t pay the heating bills- it’s all controlled by the landlord. But I know that come the heat of the summer I’ll be sat inside in my sweats and fleece- lined coat with the windows open trying to get warm. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It makes deciding what to cook for dinner a challenge. Outside I want a hot bowl of soup, warming and filling. When I get home I want salad finished by cooling bowl of ice cream. This soup is winter warming but with the addition of cooling avocado and tomatoes on top it feels more summery. If the tomatoes are really poor, then use whole tinned, strained from their juices.
Spinach bean and chorizo soup
The Italians cook something similar to this called Ribolata- but I’m not Italian, nor am I an expert in Italian cuisine, so I’m sure that you’ll find this very different to anything you’re used to. This serves 6-8 depending on how accustomed you are to American portions.
100g/4 oz chorizo, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
8 ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
450g/1 lb spinach, washed and tough stalks removed, chopped
1.3 litres chicken stock (good quality is better)
2 x 400g tins cannelloni beans
½ loaf of stale ciabatta, torn into 1inch chunks
8 crispy slices of proscuitto, to serve I find it easiest to do this between sheets of paper towel in the microwave)
1 avocado, diced, to serve
2 tomatoes, diced, to serve
1 In a large pot, fry the chorizo until crispy, remove from the pan, leaving most of the fat (this has a lot of flavour in it so use in place of oil). Slowly fry the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and garlic, cover and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 Add the spinach, stock and beans, bring up to the boil and let gently simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the chorizo back into the pan along with the ciabatta and cook to heat through. Serve in large bowls topped with the crispy proscuitto, diced avocado and tomatoes.