Monday, November 16, 2009

Minestrone Soup

We were working in the garden yesterday, harvesting the last of the tomatoes before the expected first frost.  Our garden is not producing a lot this time of year, just a handful of this and that.  I’m grateful that it’s producing anything at all, but that’s one of the perks of living in northern California.  We usually don’t get our first frost until November, so our summer vegetables will continue to grow until then.  

Staring at the vegetables that we picked for a few moments, it became clear what we were having for dinner. Minestrone soup.  I’d picked most of the necessary ingredients and had the rest in the kitchen.

I’d picked a handful of spinach, peas, zucchini, green beans, basil and parsley.

In my kitchen I had an onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and star shaped pasta.  I started with a minestrone soup recipe from Rao’s Cookbook.  Rao’s is a hundred year old restaurant with only 10 tables on a corner in East Harlem.   It serves amazing, simple, Italian food.  You have to be invited to eat there. Most of the tables are “owned” by regulars and are passed on to their children.  It’s like having dinner in an episode of The Sopranos.  
I rarely follow a soup recipe as it’s written, because I’m usually trying to use up whatever leftovers I have in my fridge.  I use the basic proportions from the recipe and improvise from there.  So, feel free to do the same with my recipe.  If you don’t have onions, use shallots.  If you have a potato, throw that in as well.  If you don’t have star shaped pasta you can use shells or spirals.  You get the idea.  
I pressure cooked a big pot of garbanzo beans for this soup and froze the rest for later use.  I don’t like to use canned beans any longer due to the BPA they use in the lining of the cans.  Cost is another factor.  If you want to use canned beans, I suggest you use Eden brand organic beans.  They’re the only company I know that has a BPA free lining.
This recipe makes four average size servings.  If I had planed ahead, or had enough ingredients on had, I would have doubled the recipe.  Soup is always good the next day, sometimes even better.  I encourage you to double this recipe if you can.  
Minestrone Inspired Soup
Makes 4 servings - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 ribs celery, chopped 
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
3 cups fresh tomato puree or sub canned
2 cups broth
1 cup filtered water
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup fresh green beans chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1/4 cup star shaped pasta
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans or kidney beans
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional garnish: grated parmesan cheese.
Heat a large pot on a medium low and add the olive oil.
Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the parsley, celery, and carrot.  Saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomato puree, broth, and water.  Simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally
Add the peas, green beans, zucchini and pasta.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the basil, garbanzo beans, spinach and salt.  Stir and simmer 5 minutes more.

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