Thursday, March 4, 2010

Soup's On: Minestrone – How ya doin'?

Note: This is a long and semi-advanced recipe.  I plan on making this into a video blog entry in the near future.

Appearing on my blog, by special request, is the soup that started it all! When I started cooking I insisted that my mother teach me how to make this soup. This is the stuff that I ran home for. I broke dates, canceled meetings and took rain checks to get this soup. It's an Italian vegetable soup that will be delicious, cheap and a frequent guest star on your table. If you shop right you can have a gigantic pot of soup that will feed you and your minions for a week and will cost under 2 bucks a serving. I'll post my grocery bill for this the next time I make it so you can see. If you end up with way more soup than you can eat in a week, freeze it. It freezes easily and defrosts without a problem. Now on with the show!
Note: Soup is very forgiving. Seriously. You would have to drop an old shoe in the pot to really screw this up.

Serves 8 (unless you have a bottomless tummy)
  • 1 can (15oz) of cannelloni beans ( small white beans: goya is cheapest)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 zucchini scrubbed zucchini (yellow or green is fine)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (1 large carrot or 10 – 15 baby carrots)
  • 1 stalk diced celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 -3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups drained canned tomatoes (whole or diced – if they are whole, dice them...duh)
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (1 big can or 4 small cans)
  • ½ cup  rice or small pasta (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a big pot – 6 quarts or more
  • wooden spoon
  • large knife
  • cutting board
  • potato peeler
  • can opener
  • spoon for tasting
  • tin foil (opional)
Step 1: Preping your food soldiers for battle

Grab that knife and your cutting board. Take, in turn, the zucchini, carrots, celery and potato and dice them up. Peeling the potato first will save some headaches later. Put all your chopped veggies in a bowl and set them aside. You can even have them soaking in ice water to keep them crisp and bight. Next get the onion and mince it. If you don't want to cry your eyes out, try not to cut the root nub off the onion before you go chopping it up. Now it doesn't have to be perfect but the pieces should be fairly small, almost pea sized. Set it aside and grab the two cloves of garlic. Take the flat end of your knife, put it over a clove and hit the flat blade with your palm hard. You'll notice that the papery cover will slip off easily and save you from climbing the walls trying to get it off without it cementing to your fingers. Mince, mince, mince, as small as you can make them and set aside. (Don't worry photos will follow the next time I make this.) Open all your cans and have all your seasonings ready.

If you skipped the sauteed onion section, you're a bad boy and need to be shot. I take no prisoners and I do not suffer fools gladly, so if you set your kitchen on fire or get a crap meal out of this recipe you have only yourself to blame. GO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! That said, lets get on with it.

Put the pot on a burner large enough for it and put the heat to medium. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and a little piece of onion. When that piece starts popping and sizzling then add the rest of the onion and stir, stir, stir. You don't have to be speed racer but make sure you push that sucker around so that it clarifies instead of browns. If you don't know what that means READ THE SAUTEE POST! After about 3 minutes of this onion tossing, throw in the garlic. Keep stirring and make sure they get warm and start to get a bit golden.
If you're having trouble keeping the onions from browning, turn down the heat a bit. You can even take the pot off the burner for a moment to get it to cool down.

Step 3: Add Deeze – Carrot, Celery, Potato the Root of the Matter

Grab all of the diced root vegetables. That means the carrot, celery and potatoes. Add these to the onion and garlic and mix well. They should be coated in oil, onion and garlic pieces after a few minutes. Now there is an added step here that you can take or leave.

It's called “sweating your vegetables.” This does not mean you have to go back to high school thinking and start cooing over the pot telling the carrots how good they look peeled. What your doing is in a sense, steaming them in the pot to bring out more flavor. Take a length of tin foil and push it loosely down on the veggies so that they can steam, but no so tight that they can't breathe. Turn your heat down to medium low – and this is tricky – you have to keep an ear, an eye and a nose out for trouble. About 3 minutes should do it and if you feel like you have to stir the veg more than once please do so. Even I mess up this part so I tend to skip it sometimes. After 3 minutes, take off the foil and add the liquids.

Step 4: Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble if you haven't been paying attention

OK! So far so good right? ....Oh boy. Anyway, add the diced tomatoes (you 'did' remember to dice them if they were whole right?) and the stock. This will seriously slow down the vegetables cooking, so you're going to turn the heat up to high and get it to boil. Remember the boiling lesson? It's the same for stocks and most liquids. If you have no clue what I just said, GO BACK AND READ IT!

After you get it to a roiling boil, turn the heat down to medium so you have a simmer. Simmer is much more gentle than a boil but there is still a bubbling in the pot. At this point you can add the pasta or rice and the seasonings (bay leaf, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.) I find that adding the beans at the last minute helps them keep their shape a bit better. They're already cooked, you're just heating them up.
Let this simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with a nice hunk of Italian bread or a baguette and if you want to put some Parmesan cheese on it, go ahead.

Like I said before it sounds complicated but once you know how to do it and once you see how it's done on the future video, you won't have trouble with this dish.


The Beaudoins said...

I love making soup but have never done a minestrone. I may have to pull this one out for the Bible study crowd this month.

frooverheeman said...

Robin, this soup is delicious :) I've had it a few times!