By Susan Irby • Photo by GreggEvanPhotography


No matter where you live, January is a time for comfort foods. Stressful holidays, the start of a new year, chillier weather all play a role in just wanting to feel good, take a load off, relax and bundle up with something delicious, whether it is your significant other or a delicious bowl of soup. It’s all about the comfortable feeling that comes with a warm blanket, a hug or a hearty helping of lasagna. When the warm blanket and hug aren’t around or you’re just hungry, comfort food is the next best thing. But comfort food often carries the negative connotation of being fattening. It doesn’t have to be. Comfort food can be both healthy and comforting at the same time. It’s all in the food. Some comfort food favorites include mac ‘n’ cheese, anything fried or hearty soups and stews. That’s where Tuscan Ribollita comes in. Ribollita is a bean soup packed with vegetables and usually served with bread rubbed with fresh garlic resting at the bottom of the bowl – a sort of grand food prize for the soup enjoyment. Meaning ‘re-boiled,’ Ribollita is a Tuscan delight customarily made using leftovers of bread, cannellini beans and vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and onion. A very filling and satisfying soup, Ribollita is the perfect comfort food and it’s good for you. This Ribollita recipe replaces carbohydrate and protein rich cannellini beans with equally carb-rich hominy. Hominy is whole kernel corn used in dishes like menudo, stews and casseroles. Tuscan Ribollita is more of a hearty soup than a stew and in this recipe, hominy is combined with antioxidant-rich spinach, carrots and herbs. A good dish to be enjoyed before winter sports like snowboarding and skiing, hominy-filled Ribollita is a good source of fiber-filled carbs giving you energy and warmth to sustain you through cold winter days.

HOMINY RIBOLLITA (Serves 6 to 8)
• • • • • • • • • • 1 medium white onion, chopped 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped 4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced , plus 1 whole clove for serving 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon black pepper 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes 1 pound frozen spinach 1 32-ounce can hominy, white or yellow, with juice • 4 cups chicken broth • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or smoked paprika • 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence • ½ tablespoon lemon zest • 4 to 6 ciabatta rolls • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish • ¼ cup olive oil plus some for drizzling on bread


1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta, the 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden brown and the pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes. 2. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. 3. Add the spinach, hominy, broth, cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder, herbs de Provence and zest. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 5. Drizzle the ciabatta halves with olive oil. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 6. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with the whole garlic clove. 7. Place the toasts in the serving bowls and ladle the soup over the toasts. 8. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.


Susan Irby, the Bikini Chef, is a radio host for Bikini Lifestyles on 790 KABC, an author and specialist in healthy “bikini” cuisine. Follow her at thebikinichef or visit her website at


ı JANUARY 2012

Copyright Susan Irby, the Bikini Chef™ 2011