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Tuscan Vegetable Soup with Eggs

(Acquacotta--or "cooked water")

This fine Tuscan soup was a special request of the Walkers in Sevierville, Tennessee. Definitely not for spinach haters. I did not think I was going to like it at all--but, in fact, it's wonderful. Total comfort food and very good for you. It came from the practice of shepherds and charcoal burners in the Maremma part of Tuscany: they'd toss whatever was at hand into pots of water they had simmering and end up with an evening meal. Serve hot as a light meal to 6 people.

Undergarnish: 6 thick slices of coarse, dense bread, grilled or broiled

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (you want a wide area for poaching the eggs at the end), then saute the celery, onion, and chili pepper over low heat until the onion is transparent. Stir in the spinach until it has wilted and glazed with the other vegetables. Stir in the tomatoes and let them cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in 6 cups of water and bring to a boil--then reduce heat and let simmer for about an hour.

When ready to serve, beat the 2 eggs and the Parmesan cheese together, then stir into the soup. Let the soup return to a boil over medium heat. Break each of the 6 eggs into the soup on spots that are exactly where you see the soup bubbling. Simmer gently for about 3 minutes, so that the eggs are all nicely poached.

To serve, place a piece of grilled bread in each bowl. Top each one with one of the poached eggs. Then ladle the soup on top.