Monday, September 27, 2010

Soup of the Week: Minestrone Soup

I actually made this soup two weeks ago. :) I have two frozen packages left; it is really good! Now that summer is over, I want to get back into the routine of making soups and stocks on a regular basis. I like to have a stash of prepared soups in the freezer to have for lunch or as part of a quick dinner.

This recipe is for Minestrone alla Milanese (from Cooking Class Italian Cookbook) and I got it from my grandmother, who likes to add whatever is on hand, saying, “This is the way Italian cooks make it, using whatever is on hand and using up small amounts of leftovers.”

• ¼ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
• 2 med zucchini, ½ inch cubes
• 1 large potato, ½ inch cubes
• ½ lb cabbage (I omit this)
• 1/3 cup olive oil (I use less)
• 3 Tablespoons butter (mandatory for the flavor!)
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 3 medium carrots, chopped
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced (I used 2)
• 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
• 3 ½ cups beef broth (I use chicken bone soup or vegetable stock, see * below)
• 1 ½ cup water (or use additional stock if you have enough)
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp dried basil
• ¼ tsp dried rosemary
• ¼ tsp pepper
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 can cannellini beans (white kidney) drained and rinsed
• Baby spinach leaves 1-2 oz (I added this to the recipe)
• Orzo pasta (I added this to the recipe-found whole wheat orzo at Whole Foods)
• Grated Parmesan

Prepare vegetables, make vegetable stock (see * below). In a large stockpot, heat oil and butter. Saute onions 6 min, add carrots and potato, sauté 5 minutes, add celery and green beans, sauté 5 minutes more (stirring often during these times). Add garlic, stir to combine.

Add broth/stock, tomatoes, water, seasonings, and stir well to scrape vegetable bits from bottom of stockpot (umami). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cannellini beans, cook 30 minutes more but uncovered this time to reduce somewhat, then add orzo and spinach, stirring to combine, and cook 5-7 minutes, or just until pasta is cooked al dente.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve w/cheese. Makes about 12 cups.

*Vegetable stock: clean your vegetables well. As you cut up what is needed for the soup, throw the trimmed ends into a large pot full of water. I add onion ends/outer layers, carrot ends, peelings, and tops, celery tops (the more leaves the better), zucchini ends, a bit of parsley if I have some, etc. (I usually don’t add the potato peel but just wash well and leave it on the potato.) Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes (while you are chopping everything else and sautéing the veggies for the soup in another pot). Place a strainer over a large pot (I use a large pitcher) and carefully pour the stock through the strainer into the pot. Discard boiled vegetable bits. Measure the amount needed to add to the soup recipe above. You can also freeze vegetable trimmings to make stock at a later time, or add the vegetable trimmings to chicken bones to make chicken stock—but that takes 7 hours, better to do on another day.

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