Minestrone (to kick off Twenty Ten!)
January 2, 2010 § 3 Comments
My family is divided when it comes to New Years’ Resolutions. Some members of my family treat January 1st as if it were no different than October 4th and July 29th. Other members of my family make resolutions pronto, and when they hear I haven’t made mine by January 4th, nag me to do so, ad nausea – as if I’m running out of time? I have mixed feelings about “resoluting” (doesn’t that sound more fun than “resolving”?). For the past 17 years, New Years has arrived directly after a semester ends (often a brain-squeezing one at that) and the last thing I want to do is make another laundry list or Venn diagram. That said, list or not, I do relish blank slates, fresh starts, new numbers and one more reason to pause, rewind, clean up, make food, goof-off with friends and look forward to something new.
Comic by Bill Watterson
And so, despite my recent resurface to the world after Thesis Season and graduation, I have made a hope for the new year. In short, I’d like to move nice and slow and live a little bit lighter. In the past half-dozen weeks, I’ve been moving faster than ever, subsisting on whole-milk yogurt, bread, apples, peanut butter and chocolate, and I didn’t have enough brain power to read the morning comics in the back of the paper. Something’s gotta give, if you ask me. That brings me to the kitchen: I’d love to soak up my afternoons fogging up my glasses over a big pot on the stove; I’d like to stir away my evenings; I’d like to smell my breakfasts.
I’m jump-starting this new year with a wholesome bowl of minestrone soup. I made this last week, inspired by the latest issue of Cooks’ Illustrated Magazine, and polished off the whole pot with my family. This week I plan to whip out my heavy pot and simmer-away early January.
This soup is hearty, healthy and while you do have to hang around the house for a little while (unless you have a crock-pot), it hardly requires brain power. There are a modest number of ingredients in the recipe, but don’t let that deter you. Half of the ingredients are the standard soup aromatics – celery, onion, carrot. The more unusual ingredients include 1.5 cups of V8 Juice and a Parmesan cheese rind. If you don’t have a Parmesan rind, cut up a 1″ x 1″ block of Parmesan cheese and let it melt into the broth. Parmesan is an essential ingredient. This soup is strictly vegetarian – no chicken stock, here – and the flavors are extraordinarily rich, thanks to the cheese (and red pepper flakes).
Wishing you a healthy new year with hearty appetites and plenty of sweet teeth.
Ingredients (serves 8-10):
1 cup dried beans (I prefer heirloom Colorado River beans or Christmas Lima’s)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
10+ cups of water
1 Parmesan cheese rid
1.5 cups V8 Juice (low-sodium is fine)
1/2 cup chopped basil
If you prefer to crock-pot this recipe, be sure to bring dried beans to a boil first, before adding them to the crock pot. Once beans have been brought to a boil, then combine all ingredients in the ceramic basin and let the crock do the work. To cook soup over the stove, follow the instructions below:
1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sea salt into 8 cups of cold water. Add beans and soak at room temperature overnight.
2. The following day, drain beans and rinse several times. Heat oil in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven and cook onions, celery and carrot until softened and slightly golden and caramelized, about 7 minutes. Stir in cabbage and garlic for 1 minute, until aromatic. Transfer the vegetables to a dish and set aside.
3. In the same pot, add soaked and rinsed beans, water and Parmesan rind to the now-empty pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring every once in a while, until the beans are fully cooked. (Depending on your dried bean this could take any where from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours.)
4. When beans are tender, add V8 juice to the pot and add reserved vegetables. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Discard Parmesan rind. Just before serving, stir in chopped basil and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, Nut-free