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Acquacotta

This is one of my favorite early fall soups, just when the weather turns and the farmer’s markets are busting with ripe tomatoes, kale and fall porcinis. The lily gets gilded with the busted yolk that enriches the broth, a liberal sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil and the nuttiness of the Parmigiano Reggiano. This soup is so much more than what its name implies "cooked water", much like the proverbial Stone Soup that ends up being a feast.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup fennel, small diced
1 onion, small diced
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bunch Lacinato kale, leaves only, sliced thinly
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 red ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 bunch thyme leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 pound fresh porcinis, sliced or 2 tablespoons rehydrated dried Porcinis
4 (1-inch) thick slices Italian peasant bread
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
4 eggs, poached (I like it when the yolk is still soft)
Italian parsley, for garnishing

Preheat the grill or broiler. In a large soup pot, heat 1/4 olive oil over high heat. Add the fennel, onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Add the kale, stock and tomatoes, season with thyme, salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Add the mushroom slices and simmer 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread on the grill or broiler and place 1 in each of 4 warm soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the bread slices, top with a poached egg (see note), and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top and garnish with parsley leaves.

Note: To poach eggs, crack each into a small cup. Heat 2” of water in a shallow, wide pan until boiling. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Turn heat down to a bare simmer and add eggs, one at a time, stirring the water as you add the eggs so that the movement of the water helps shape the eggs. When all the eggs have been added, time them for 4 minutes and then scoop them out carefully. You can store them in cold water until you are ready to use them. Just reheat them in the broth before serving.

Note: Serves 4