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A cauliflower and cannellini soup and my new good habits

Some time ago I realized that I was not able to focus anymore, I could not remember what I had to do. I strove to be present to myself, but most of the time after five minutes all my intentions would vanish. It was like writing on the seashore. I would draw with a finger words on the sand, then a wave would come and I had to start all over again. I lost confidence in myself and others, as a result, were doing the same.

Mum would remind me a hundred times what I had to do and I would invariably lose my patience as I was reading it like a lack of trust, then I would promptly forget. Just little things, like going to the pharmacy, buying bread or paying a bill. Piling up, though, those insignificant everyday gestures would cause me a growing discomfort.

I would not recognize myself. I was not the responsible person I had always believed to be, but a woman with her head up in the clouds that would spend the whole day doing something else, with the excuse that ‘I had to work’. So I killed several plants that I forgot to water, I burned more than a soffritto and missed many a self-imposed deadline.

Il mare d'inverno

Il mare d'inverno

At the end of October I felt the urge to slow down, as I told you here, but I needed also to define a set of activities which could keep me rooted in the present moment. It is perfectly admissible and, to me even necessary, to program, but then you need to live the present moment with some awareness, you need to dirt your hands.

I started with a simple activity: keeping a few pots of aromatics alive. There is a weird climate in the studio, sometimes it is damp, especially if there’s a pot of broth simmering on the stove for hours, other days it is exceptionally dry, mostly when I write and I fuel up the stove with logs of wood with the same enthusiasm of those who threw coal into a train boiler. Thyme and rosemary are the only plants that can survive in this climate, and I make sure they have enough water and light to get to spring.

The slowly expanding green area in the studio reignited a dormant desire: now I am also taking care of two ivy pots that will create a leafy curtain on the doors. I also discovered a growing curiosity towards succulents: you might think I am playing it dirty here as succulents definitely require less commitment than aromatics or other houseplants, but in my career I can boast numerous cactus deaths, so it seemed like a good additional challenge. Two beautiful deep green zamioculcas have already arrived, accompanied by small agaves, a gasteria, and other succulents whose names I will soon find out. Feeding a newborn curiosity is a good resolution for the New Year. 

cauliflower and cannellini soup

I lovingly take care of my sourdough starter. I make bread on a weekly basis, letting it rise for more than twenty-four hours, practicing patience, paying attention to the dough necessities. I try to bake it at the right temperature and for enough time to have a beautiful dark and crisp crust, possibly without burning it. This is an accomplishment that I would have never thought to aspire: I keep it simple, to learn throughly through exercise and repetition.

I make plans for the vegetable garden, even though I must admit I am enormously intimidated by this challenge. Despite being only a support to my mum and grandma’s activities, I completely stood up for this, assuring them that I will dedicate my time, my resources and my desire to learn to the vegetable garden. For the first time I bought seeds of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans and many other vegetables. It seemed like the perfect idea, starting from the seeds and hoping that this commitment will become also an activity which will require me to dirt my hands in my native soil. My 2017 word is harvest, if you ask.

Besides all this, I obviously need time to dedicate to my work, which is again challenging us and pushing us towards new discoveries. My new book, La Cucina dei mercati in Toscana, will be released on February 9th. The cooking class calendar is quickly filling up. This is not scaring me, I finally feel regenerated, a new person, more capable to manage not only my work but also everything that goes beyond it, my rediscovered curiosity and the never ceasing desire to spend time with the people that matter the most.

cauliflower and cannellini soup

Cauliflower and cannellini soup

There are cold soups, soups that resemble stews, but when I think about soup, I mean something you eat with bread and butter and call a meal – meat soups and bean soups: thick, warming and consoling, and also a good way to deal with leftovers. – Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin

This soup is thick, warming, consoling, a good way to use your leftover beans and, mostly, a meal on its own. 

It is also part of my focusing exercises: you need to be present to yourself to cook it perfectly. Slice thinly the leeks and cook them on low heat with a drizzle of your best olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until soft, making sure you are not burning them. You have no idea how many dishes dangerously perched on the limit in between nicely caramelized and burnt I served to Tommaso in the last months, it was time to put a stop to this trend.

A velvety hot soup, served in a bowl that seems to made exactly to be hugged, it is everything I need at the end of a cold working day, after some hours spent in the garden to prune the verbena for the winter or at the end of a brisk walk at the seaside, where the wind has ruffled your hair and your thoughts. The sea at winter, what a nice habit to cultivate… 

Cauliflower and cannellini soup

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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course First course, Soup
Cuisine Tuscan
Servings 4


  • 1 medium leek
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 head of cauliflower, about 500 g
  • 500 ml of hot water
  • 400 g of cooked beans
  • Fresh thyme
  • Black pepper
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  • Thinly slice the leek, use both the white and green parts. Put them on the bottom of your soup pot. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low flame for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until leeks are soft.
  • Add the cauliflower cut into florets, stir to mix with the leeks and cook for 5 more minutes to let the flavours mingle.
  • Cover with the hot water and cook on low flame until the cauliflower is so soft that you can mash it with a fork.
  • Add the beans and cook for about 5 minutes, then blend until smooth. Should it be too thick, add some more water.
  • Season with salt, a few turns of pepper and fresh thyme, then drizzle with fresh extra virgin olive oil and serve.
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Il mare d'inverno

Link Love – What I am reading and cooking in these days

What have you been reading or cooking recently? Share links in the comments!

  • Here you can find more ideas for velvety soups: my chickpea and butternut squash soup introduced the vegetable-legume combination, replacing the potatoes, the potato and artichoke soup, the classic Tuscan bean soup and eventually, strangely enough, the most appreciated recipe on the blog,  a savoy cabbage soup.  
  • In these days I often find myself dreaming about holidays on the road in Scotland or in Ireland. Then I come across articles like this, about the Aran Islands, and my desire to come back to these places surely does not disappear.
  • Tommaso bought a cookbook. It is very rare, as usually I am the one coming back home with a bagful of cookery books. He had a love at first sight encounter with New York. Cult Recipes. Yesterday he baked a batch of lemon and poppy seed muffins. While I am writing I can perfectly smell the lemon and butter aroma that is still coming from his side of the desk. 
  • Domenica Marchetti has written an article for the Washington PostHow to make the most of a roast: Give it an Italian accent. I am excited beyond words to say that I contributed somehow to the article with my declared love for roasted pork sirloin!

Il mare d'inverno

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Oh Giulia! This soup sounds like heaven to me right now from chilly Yorkshire! And happily I have everything to make it so when I have run out of my pot of savoy cabbage and chorizo soup (by coincidence I made savoy cabbage soup today! It is a great ingredient) I will make a big pot of this to keep me warm and nourished.
    Beautiful photos of the coast too – one of my favourite visits to Baratti was in the winter when everything was closed and the waves were battering the shore. It was so wild and beautiful, like a place from another time. xx

  2. Brava! I clicked the link for the soup, but was very interested to read about your lack of focus. I work at home as a graphic designer. Even with the constant weight of *having* to work loom over you, it’s frighteningly easy to lose the day. A dedicated studio space apart from the rest of the house is very helpful. And “dirtying your hands” is an excellent way to push against the fuzzy feeling. Last year, my husband and I started keeping a no-stress journal where we write at least one positive word or sentence about our day every day (we will write more if we are feeling froggy). It’s crazy. If we don’t jot something down —even after only 24 hours— we have a hard time remembering what we did! Just a simple word or phrase make the memories come flooding back. Anyway, congratulations on your book, keep up the good work, and good luck in 2017! I love your blog.

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