Soups On…fresh tomatoes, red wine… Minestrone Soup

This soup is worth the effort, especially now when the ingredients are all fresh,  local and in abundance!  Tomatoes… I think I planted a few too many this year, though there is nothing that tastes so wonderfully fresh than a tomato! I have diced and measured out many bags for the freezer already and I know I will be glad when January rolls around and grocery store tomatoes just don’t taste like tomatoes anymore.

I hope you enjoy this Minestrone recipe.  The wine adds something special:)

Speaking of wine, we are off on our very first Bike Tour to the Napa Valley in California. We will cycle (yes, on peddle bikes) an average of 65 km per day on rolling hills through vineyards, see the redwoods and do a little wine tasting. Can’t wait:)

 

MINESTRONE- SERVES 6-8

 

2 cups cannellini or white kidney beans, fresh, canned or dried and soaked overnight

2 bay leaves

2 fresh tomatoes, squashed ( I use a potato masher)

2 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half

Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

4 small red onions or 1 large walla walla onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped (large chunks)

4 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped

1 head of fennel, chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 small bunches of fresh basil, leaves and stems separated (finely chop the stems only)

5 cups fresh Roma (or a combination of) tomatoes diced or 2 cans of good quality no sodium added  plum tomatoes

4 small zucchini, quartered and sliced

2 glasses of red wine

1 good sized bunch of swiss chard or spinach, washed and roughly chopped including stalks

4 cups vegetable stock

4 oz dried whole wheat spaghetti pasta

Grated Romano cheese, to serve (optional)

Your favorite hot sauce

 

  1. Beans- Cover the dried cannellini beans with a generous amount of cold water in a bowl overnight. (make sure the water is at least 2 inches above the level of the beans). In the morning, drain the water and put beans into a good sized pot with fresh water, again covering them with water by at least 2 inches. (If you are using fresh or canned cover with water- start now)  Add the bay leaves, squashed tomato and potato. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour (less if fresh or canned) or until tender and soft but not mushy. Keep an eye on them making sure there is water always covering them, and check by tasting after about 25 minutes to see if they are done. Drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water, and remove and discard the bay leaf, tomato and potato. Season with the salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil and set aside.
  2. While the beans are cooking, heat a glug of olive oil in a stock pot and add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic and the finely chopped basil stems. “Sweat” on low heat, with the lid left ajar for about 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the diced tomatoes, zucchini and red wine and simmer gently for another 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add the chard or spinach, vegetable stock and the seasoned beans. Put the dried spaghetti pasta into a plastic bag and gently bash with a rolling pin to break the pasta into pieces. Add to the soup pot. Stir and continue to simmer until the pasta is done.
  4. If the soup is too thick add a little more stock or the reserved bean cooking water to thin it down. Season to taste with a little more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Serve with torn up Basil leaves, a little grated Romano cheese and a few drops of hot sauce. Yum!
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Roasting fresh vegees..

Fresh baby carrots, beets and new potatoes are now available locally. If you have not tried a fresh raw baby carrot in a while (not the kind that are all exactly the  same size and shape in your local grocery store or costco bags) you just don’t know what you are missing. Sweet, crunchy, the perfect mid-day snack. And beets.. they are delicious raw too, grated and added to the top of a salad.  But best of all, roasting both carrots, beets and new potatoes brings out the sweet and amazing flavor of all these root vegetables. No need to peel. Just rub them gently to remove any dirt, toss them with a splash of olive oil, a little fresh cracked pepper, a little chopped fresh dill and either roast them in the oven in a baking dish lined with parchment paper or on the BBQ in a foil pack. They will take anywhere from 15-25 minutes to reach a tender, perfectly cooked deliciousness!

Leftovers are great too. I add them  to the top of mixed greens, add a little crumbled feta, some green onion, any other fresh raw chopped vegees you want and top with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or the “Everyday salad dressing” I posted a while ago.