Sunday, May 15, 2011

For the love of the rind

At the cheese shop we sell a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano and we're not alone it is actually the world's most popular cheese with thousands of culinary uses - hello Parmigiano and honeycomb, a match made in cheese heaven! An often overlooked element of this fabulous fromage is the rind.

Often, customers will ask for a piece of Parm with the least amount of rind. It always drives me a little nuts - the rind is a treasure trove of flavor, just waiting to be used and doted upon. You want the rind people, seriously!

BTW, if you've never seen an entire 85lb wheel of Parm being opened, it's quite a sight and oh the smell! So very delicious! Here's a link to a Venissimo Parm opening party.

So how can you use the rind? Old school Italian mothers give their teething babies the rind as it's a great source of calcium; dog trainers break up little pieces for treats; traditionally the whole rind is used as a serving pot for pasta and sauce - can I get an invite to that party? Finally, my favorite way to use the rind is in soup, soup, soup and more soup! It's an amazing yet subtle flavor provider packed with umami. Any soup that you would add Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings to finish you can add the rind to for flavor.

To me, nothing says "I care" more than a bowl of soup. A lot of layers of flavors and love go into every soup. My husband - BossMan, is sick right now and when he's sick I always make soup. Using up some of the goodies from my Specialty Produce farmer's market bag, the soup du jour was kale, sausage and white bean. Here's how it all went down:

Kale, turkey sausage, white bean soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano rind

1lb Italian turkey sausage, sweet, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
a handful of baby carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, diced
8 garlic gloves diced
3 -4 glugs of evoo
3 tomatoes or 1 12oz. can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cleaned and roughly chopped
8 ounces spinach (optional)
1 12 oz. can Cannellini beans
1 by 3 inch rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano - approximately 2 ounces
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves chopped
A pinch of fresh rosemary, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating

In a heavy bottomed pot heat  one glug evoo on medium to high until slightly smokey, about 2 minutes. Add pieces of turkey sausage and brown, 3-5 minutes. Remove the sausage and set aside. Add remaining glugs of evoo along with onions, carrots and celery, saute until softened, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes and kale to the pot, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute and stir, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, beans, fresh herbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, raise temperature to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and add reserved sausage, simmer for 20 minutes. Check for seasoning, add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove the rind and discard. Ladle soup into bowls and finish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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