Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cold Weather and Winter Minestrone

What is better when the weather turns cold than a hearty soup and some warm bread? My sister-in-law Tanya requested this posting. It is a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis' book: Giada's Family Dinners (worth buying!) with a few changes and is super fabulous. I know that it took me some time to successfully make soup that tastes good. Here is a no-fail recipe. Easy, quick to make and delicious!

A word about chopping. Macrobiotic cooks have it right ... the way you cut the food matters. I don't know that it gives the food different energies ... but it certainly has a big impact on taste. Sorry, but it does. A big huge 1/4" thick round of carrot just doesn't taste as good as a 1/8" thick slice cut into quarters. Having several vegetables in one spoonful adds to the taste. That's nearly impossible with a big-ole hunk of carrot and a chunk of celery. Not the same. As the picture shows, cut the carrot / celery stalk the long way in half, and then the long way about 4 times like a carrot stick you'd put in your kids lunch box. Then chop in 1/8" thick slices. Yumola! Plus, your soup will cook faster! :)
OK enough editorializing ... here's the recipe!
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped small
3 carrots, peeled and chopped small ('nough said on that!)
4-5 celery stalks, chopped small
3 oz thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped (I keep a big chunk that I bought on "The Hill" (the Italian District, in Providence) in the freezer. Or get some sliced from the deli and keep it in the freezer.)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves chopped small enough to fit on the spoon. (who wants a big floppy drippy leafy thing dangling off your spoonful of soup?) You can omit this if you must. I have a child who will not eat leafy "salad" soups.
1 potato peeled and cubed.
1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
1 - 2 T fresh rosemary - chopped, maybe 1 T if dried rosemary
2 cans cannellini beans (or white navy beans if you don't appreciate large beans), drained and rinsed
1 32 oz box of low sodium chicken broth
Chunk of Parmesan cheese rind (Giada notes that this adds richness ... "salty, buttery goodness" to the soup)
2 T fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, pancetta, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add Swiss chard and potato; saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and rosemary. Simmer about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blender, or hand-held blender, combine one can of the beans with 1 cup of the broth and blend until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan rind to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in other can of drained, rinsed beans and the chopped parsley. Simmer until beans are heated through and soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Taste and add any needed salt or pepper. ** I find this soup is even better if you have the time to let it simmer for a longer period of time. Ideally, 30-45 minutes.**
Eat with warm bread!

1 comment:

a. borealis said...

Interesting! I hadn't heard the arguement for smaller-chopped vegetables, but it makes sense. I used to leave mine in big, and I mean, BIG, chunks - mostly because I was in a hurry and didn't want to be rushed. But recently, I've been chopping them smaller. Good info! That encourages me to continue taking my time.

...thinking about it, I think getting a good set of knives contributed to this as well.