It’s very chilly and rainy here today so soup is absolutely necessary. This is my famous Minestrone Soup, or as some like to call it, Vegetable Stew. It’s one of those recipes that is like the Pirate Code, more like guidelines rather than a strict set of rules. I’ve got more than a few recipes like that.
Here’s how this one goes:
In a large stockpot, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil and sweat some garlic, celery and onion for a few minutes in the oil until everything is nice and fragrant but not browning yet. Then add an 8 oz. can each of tomato sauce, garbanzo beans and kidney beans plus a 15 oz. can of diced or ready-cut tomatoes and 8 cups of water. Turn the stove to high and bring to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1-2 teaspoons basil, one teaspoon oregano, 2 bay leaves and 1/4 cup pearl barley. Reduce to a strong simmer, cover loosely and simmer for at least a good hour, longer is better. Add more water if it’s getting too thick because you haven’t even started adding the things that make it even thicker.
Add 1-2 diced carrots, 4-6 small diced red potatoes with the skins left on and some cut green beans. Return to simmer and cook these added vegetables another 45 minutes or so and feel free at this point to add whatever vegetables you think belong in a good Minestrone and leave out the green beans if you hate them. Just be aware that some vegetables absorb liquid from your soup and some release liquid into your soup and know which are which. Make adjustments to the liquid ratio if you feel they are needed. Adding water or increasing the heat and/or cooking time are your controls.
Add 1/2 – 3/4 cup pasta of your choice, I like orrechiette or broken fettucine or small egg noodles or small rotini. You choose. When the soup returns to a boil, add some greens like shredded cabbage or spinach or chopped chard. I’ve settled on spinach because I can buy it in a bag already cleaned and throw it in without washing or chopping or anything.Watch the soup as it simmers now because it will stick and burn if it boils to hard. Add water if you like it thinner. Cook it longer with the lid ajar if you like it thicker. Hope you made or bought some fresh bread to go with this soup.
Editorial comment on that bagged spinach: I do not eat it raw at home or in restaurants, only well-cooked. If I was dedicated to the consumption of raw spinach, I would learn how to grow it and only eat my own homegrown spinach raw. E. Coli and Salmonella are getting everywhere, but that’s another post.
Perversely, I always feel ready for new beginnings in the fall rather than the spring, probably because I am still in synch with the old standard academic calendar beginning in the fall more than the Gregorian calendar with January as the beginning of the year or nature’s cycle of beginnings in the spring and endings in the fall. Many thanks to Christina for helping me to set up my blog and website. Now is as good a time as any, let’s begin!