Thursday, March 26, 2009

The michael5000 Kitchen #7: "Marvelous Minestrone"

Provenance: This recipe is printed on a half-page handout from the Lawrence, Kansas Community Mercantile natural foods co-op. The Mississippi Street address indicates that I picked it up sometime between about 1993, when it moved to that location, and 1997, when I (by that time living some 90 miles away) stopped shopping there. I do not recall ever using the recipe, which is elaborate enough that I probably would remember, nor are there any significant stains or other signs of use on it. I am a little puzzled by a small happy face in what looks like my own penmanship on the recipe card. What might that indicate? That I actually DID make the recipe and liked the results? That I thought it looked tasty, but never got around to making it? Or was there some other motivation to draw a smiley face, now lost in the mists of time? We’ll never know.

The Recipe:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 – 6 cloves minced or pressed Garlic [I used 5]
1 large Onion, chopped
2 medium Carrots, chopped
4 – 5 stalks Celery, chopped [I used 5]
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped Parley
1 Tablespoon dried Basil
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1½ teaspoons Black Pepper
1½ teaspoons Salt (or to taste)
3½ Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons “Sweetener of Your Choice.”
5 – 7 cups “Water or Stock”
4 medium-sized Tomatos
1½ cup Green Beans, cut to 1” lengths
2 cups cooked Navy Beans
6 – 8 ounces Pasta

Heat Olive Oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. In it, sauté the Garlic, Onions, Carrots, Celery, Parsley, Basil, and Oregano for several minutes. Add Pepper, Salt, Vinegar, Sweetener, Water or Stock, Tomatoes, and Green Beans, and simmer over low heat until vegetables are tender but not falling apart. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. Serve with grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese.

The Results:

This is a recipe that contains within itself a certain latitude of interpretation, which I suppose is appropriate for a traditional dish like minestrone. For some of the simpler choices, I used 5 cloves of garlic, 5 stalks celery, and 8 ounces of pasta, the latter concept (i.e. measuring an ingredient by weight) requiring the purchase of my first ever kitchen scale (I picked up a new set of measuring spoons too, while I was at it). For the “Sweetener of My Choice” -- did I mention this recipe came from a natural foods store? -- I used White Sugar, the traditional sweetener of my people.

The 5 – 7 cups of “Water or Stock” presents a vast range of possibilities. I used a carton of Trader Joe’s Vegetable Broth, which turned out to be four cups, plus a cup of Water, plus a cup of Red Wine, which an asterisk suggested as a stand-in for one cup of Water or Broth. That brought me to six cups of liquid which, with 8 ounces of pasta, made for rather too little broth in the mix. I believe I’ll try for 7 cups of liquid and 7 ounces of pasta on the next go around.

Despite the long list of ingredients, the recipe posed no special problems once I bought the scale. I do always groan, though, at recipes that call for a quantity of “cooked beans.” I have no idea how much the various beans swell when cooked, so I will always end up (as now) with the amount that actually ends up in the recipe, plus a huge surplus of boiled beans in the fridge, plus another surplus of dried beans that I overbought, always thinking for some reason that a cup is much bigger than it actually is.

Oh, how did it taste? Pretty good! It had, Mrs.5000 noted, a bit of a “bite,” but I think that is due to me accidentally putting in 2 Tablespoons rather than teaspoons of Oregano. By the time we were done with the stuff, we were calling it "Oregano With Vegetables." Must learn to be more attentive to recipe measurements.

It is worth mentioning, too, that this is probably one of the healthier recipes in my files. It is probably better for you, for example, than the Better Than Robert Redford dessert. It can now join the salsa at El Burrito Loco on 82nd Avenue as a food that I can use to sneak that most vile of fruits, the tomato, into my diet. I can’t believe I actually purchased and cooked with four of those things, but you know me – anything for a project.


Yankee in England said...

This looks lovely! My DH makes a yummy soup like this but being a carnivor he adds chicken and ham, sans pasta more beans. It is one of my favorite soups. I get so exchited when he bakes a ham with the anticipation of the soup from the left overs a couple days later.

The Calico Cat said...

No tomatoes & no brussels sprouts - what veggies do you like?

Jennifer said...

You know, it never occurred to me to use a kitchen scale to weigh pasta. (I don't own a kitchen scale, and although I cook a fair amount, I don't feel the need for one.) I feel like I can't go really wrong dumping in approximately half of a one-pound bag of pasta.

I have not been a minestrone fan in the past, but the picture actually looks really good; it makes me want to make the soup (though maybe without the beans--I know! I know! it's not really minestrone then, but still). I think it's funny that you like the soup as a way of slipping tomatoes into your diet, while I, who adore fresh tomatoes, have not in the past liked tomato soups much.

Jennifer said...

Friday bonus comment:

One of the few times I have had minestrone was in Eugene when I was a freshman. I ended up at the 5th Street Market food court on a cold, wet winter day. I was looking at the options on the menu over the counter at a little Italian joint (no longer there, alas), when the guy in charge (owner, maybe?) said something to me, with an accent, and I took a chance, broke out of my shyness, and replied in first-year Italian. After a little halting conversation in Italian (halting on my part; he was fluent), he ended up insisting on giving me a free cup of minestrone.

My happiness made it taste delicious.

MJ said...

mmm this one looks delicious, definetely going to try it (without beans probably)

Michael5000 said...

@ Calico: There's nothing strange about not liking Brussels sprouts.

Having said that, my favorite vegetable would have to be... cookies....

@Serendip: Mrs.5000 was just pointing out that maybe a scale was overkill. But it was a good excuse to buy a kitchen scale.
Also, I like your vignette. Its structure, interestingly, reminds me of KOL.

@MJ: Personally, I thought it could use more beans. But then that's my answer for everything.

Jenners said...

So you mismeasured even though you had new spoons?

KarmaSartre said...

Foolproof / Failsafe / Authentic / Delicious ---

One yellow onion, halved, then thinly sliced
Two diced carrots
Two diced stalks celery
4 Yukon Gold Po's, peeled, diced
2 small Zucchini diced
1 handful green beans diced
1 small head Napa Cabbage thinly sliced
2 boxes 32 Fl. Oz. Pacific Organic Veggie Broth
1/2 can San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 can Cannelini beans (rinsed!)
The rind from used chunks of Parmagiano Reggiano, as much ink scraped off as possible
Freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano

Prep each ingredient, transfer to pot, saute in extra-virgin Olive Oil while prepping the next one, add in sequence. The Po's will require an extra stir or two due to the starch. Don't be alarmed by the amount of cabbage, it almost disintegrates. When all veggies are sauteed, add the cheese rind, tomatoes and stock. If tomatoes are whole, break them up (scissors are great for this, you can do it right in the pot (San Marzano has whole and crushed varieties) bring to a boil and simmer on very low for 3 hrs. 45 minutes. If too thick at this point, add a drip of water, but this soup should be fairly thick. Then add the beans and simmer 15 minutes more before serving. Taste for salt: it may be sufficiently salty from the cheese rind, or may need a tweaking. Put a tbsp. of FRESH grated Parmagian Reggiano atop each serving, a drip or three of extra-virgin olive oil (your very best one) a twist of freshly-cracked pepper, and if you have any handy, a dollop of Pesto Sauce.

Important 1) Save your Parmagianno Cheese Rinds (they freeze), 2) Only use San Marzano brand tomatoes (in anything calling for a canned tomato, you'll be amazed at the taste), 3) dice to the size that works well in soup, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and 4) NO Pasta!