Rustic Minestrone

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Vegetable soups have been around for decades and they are great as a starter or as a meal itself.  The recipe can either be made for Summer or Winter seasons, it just depends on the vegetables that you use. Now let’s get started!

Summer Minestrone:

  • 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (dry, semi-sweet)
  • 2 large summer squash (zucchini)
  • 1 large white onion, Julienne
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled and cut 1/2 inch pieces  (*see notes below for instructions*)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 lb red potatoes, quarter, then cut in half
  • 2 cups green cabbage
  • 4 cups red kidney beans or 3 cups ciciri (Sicilian for chickpeas)
  • 9 oz tomato paste (Contadina)
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 medium bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp sugar or 2 1/8 tsp natural pure honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preparation:

After washing the vegetables, take the zucchini and cut both ends off and discard. Cut in half lengthwise then cut 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices; place in large mixing bowl. Next, Julienne the onions, with this Julienne cut we will slice the onion approx 1/8 inch thick; place 3/4 of onion in mixing bowl. Proceed to peel and cut the carrots on a bias (a diagonal cut), discard the peeled portion and both ends. For the cabbage, this cut will be similar to a chiffonade cut (shredded or finely cut), but it will be slightly larger in size; same method of cutting. after cutting both ends off celery, slice the celery evenly about 1/4/ inch thick. Once the potatoes are cut, place them in cold water to prevent oxidation, which causes potatoes to turn brown of grey. Before adding the potatoes to the soup, discard the original water that they were sitting in and rinse them one more time, draining all of the water. If using canned beans, drain well then rinse. After beans are drained, place in bowl with carrots, celery, cabbage, onion, and zucchini. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp sugar, a splash of olive oil.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over med. high, once the oil is hot add the garlic cloves. Once the garlic has cooked for about 10 seconds add 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock and  1 cup water, bring to a hard boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the fresh oregano, fresh thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and cook at a soft boil for 30 minutes, depouillage any foam/bubbles that form at the top (this means to skim the top with a spoon to remove the foam like substance, also known as impurities, after 30 minutes remove from heat. In another large stock pot, pour liquid into a fine mesh chinois, removing any impurities and any undesirable particles of herbs/spices. Place stock pot over medium low heat, adding the vegetables (be sure to drain the potatoes before adding them to the soup) and remaining ingredients and stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours (stoves may vary), but check the vegetables, they should be soft; mushy vegetables are terrible. A good way to check to see if the zuppa is done is to pierce a potato with a sharp knife, it the potato slides off the blade with ease, then the soup is ready to serve.

Winter Minestrone:

  • 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store bought)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 large yellow squash
  • 1 large yellow onion, Julienne
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled and cut 1/2 inch pieces  (*see notes below for instructions*)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, quarter, then cut in half (Round White and Yellow potatoes work better)
  • 1 cup green cabbage
  • 1 cup red cabbage
  • 4 cups red kidney beans
  • 9 oz tomato paste (Contadina)
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 medium bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp sugar or 2 1/8 tsp natural pure honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preparation:

After washing the vegetables, take the zucchini and cut both ends off and discard. Cut in half lengthwise then cut 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices; place in large mixing bowl. Next, Julienne the onions, with this Julienne cut we will slice the onion approx 1/8 inch thick; place 3/4 of onion in mixing bowl. Proceed to peel and cut the carrots on a bias (a diagonal cut), discard the peeled portion and both ends. For the cabbage, this cut will be similar to a chiffonade cut (shredded or finely cut), but it will be slightly larger in size; same method of cutting. after cutting both ends off celery, slice the celery evenly about 1/4/ inch thick. Once the potatoes are cut, place them in cold water to prevent oxidation, which causes potatoes to turn brown of grey. Before adding the potatoes to the soup, discard the original water that they were sitting in and rinse them one more time, draining all of the water. If using canned beans, drain well then rinse. After beans are drained, place in bowl with carrots, celery, cabbage, onion, and zucchini. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp sugar, a splash of olive oil.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over med. high, once the oil is hot add the garlic cloves. Once the garlic has cooked for about 10 seconds add 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock and  1 cup water, bring to a hard boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the fresh oregano, fresh thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and cook at a soft boil for 30 minutes, depouillage any foam/bubbles that form at the top (this means to skim the top with a spoon to remove the foam like substance, also known as impurities, after 30 minutes remove from heat. In another large stock pot, pour liquid into a fine mesh chinois, removing any impurities and any undesirable particles of herbs/spices. Place stock pot over medium low heat, adding the vegetables (be sure to drain the potatoes before adding them to the soup) and remaining ingredients and stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours (stoves may vary), but check the vegetables, they should be soft; mushy vegetables are terrible. A good way to check to see if the zuppa is done is to pierce a potato with a sharp knife, it the potato slides off the blade with ease, then the soup is ready to serve.

The best way and the proper way to peel a tomato is to make tomato concassé (peeled, seeded, and chopped). This process is fairly easy:

  1.  Start with ripe tomatoes, then with a parring knife make an “X” on the bottom of the tomato.
  2. Carefully drop in to a pot of boil water (blanching) and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Immediately remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water; this stops the tomato from cooking any further.
  4. After it has cooled (don’t leave to long [10 seconds or so], otherwise it will become waterlogged. Transfer to cutting board.
  5. Peel the skin off the tomato. It helps to use a parring knife to peel the skin off (with the edge of the blade to you, hold the blade, exposing only the tip of the blade, between the tip of your thumb and the first knuckle of your index finger. Gently begin to scrape the skin starting at the “X” on the bottom.)

Also, the white wine or Marsala wine doesn’t have to be expensive. I have found that a wine that cost about $10 will do the trick. Always have a few cheap red and white wines on hand for cooking. Save the really good stuff for drinking!

Pasta in the zuppa…

Here are some types of pasta that go well with minestrone soup:

  • Ditalini (very short in length, tubular macaroni)
  • Fusilli (spiral)
  • Farfalle (butterflies or bowtie)
  • Conchigliette (little shells)
  • Orzo (pasta that resembles rice grains)
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