Friday, January 23, 2009

95. Minestrone (p. 106)

I knew that the first few weeks of parenthood would be hectic (even though I didn't realize just how hectic it would be). So, a few weeks ago, I went on a cooking and freezing spree so that we'd have plenty of food on hand and wouldn't have to worry about making dinner.

This recipe makes a delicious, hearty soup that's packed with all kinds of delicious things: beans, cabbage, kale, bacon, zucchini, carrots, celery and potatoes. More surprising than what's in this soup is what's not in this soup ... pasta. Every other minestrone I've ever had includes some kind of pasta. But, since minestrone is a classic Italian cucina povera dish with no set recipe, one can't say whether the omission of the pasta is "right" or "wrong." In this instance, because the soup was so hearty, and because of the inclusion of potatoes, I think that pasta would have been overkill in this recipe.

First, I soaked some great northern beans overnight (after congratulating myself for planning ahead). The next day, I boiled the beans for a time and then let them stand while I made the rest of the soup. I peeled and diced some potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water.

Then I pulled out my great big Dutch oven and put in some oil and chopped turkey bacon (The Book calls for pancetta, but my wife won't eat pork). Next, I added the vegetables in sequence based on how long they need to cook: onions, carrot, celery, garlic, potatoes, zucchini, green beans (I used frozen because I couldn't find fresh at my local mega-mart), cabbage, kale and drained, chopped tomatoes. All of this, along with some chicken stock (canned, sorry), simmered for about an hour.

Then, The Book says "Drain beans, reserving liquid," but I somehow missed the second part of this instruction, so all of that glorious, rich bean cooking liquid went right down the drain. Oooops! So I pureed half of the beans with a cup of plain water instead of cooking liquid. I added the puree, the rest of the beans, and a little more water to make up for the missing cooking liquid, and simmered it for another few minutes, and then it was done.

We ate some of the soup right away. I was planning on freezing all of it, but I just happened to finish cooking it right around dinner time, and it looked so good that we couldn't resist. I was delicious. Hearty, flavorful, packed with vegetables. This is an excellent, substantial main-course soup perfect for the winter when you want something to warm you from the inside.

I divided the leftovers into some freezer bags, and after we got home from the hospital, we enjoyed this soup as a quick and easy dinner. I just put the frozen soup in the microwave for three minute intervals, stirring in between, until it was done. When you're exerting so much effort keeping a newborn fed and happy, it's nice to be able to do the same for yourself without any effort at all.

Date Cooked: December 28, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A

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