This is the time of year I freeze a whole lot of minestrone for the winter months. I leave the pasta out, to keep it from becoming mushy upon defrosting and heating. That allows me to change it up at whim into a Moroccan, Mexican, or Indian stew or soup.
This is what I traditionally put in every year, although I’ve been know to add butternut squash to the mix. And sometimes I’m too lazy to make beans. Today I planned ahead and coordinated the bean simmering with a one hour head start and then the second hour with the the vegetable chopping. Yes, this takes time, we’re talking slow food, but I try to avoid canned beans and have yet to see what abuse a food processor would do to these vegetables. The tomatoes would fare very well, along with the celery, and I guess, if I’d ever take the time to figure out the shredder attachment, the machine could whip through the carrots. My guess is the onions would be so abused, they’d turn into a watery pulp. I think about it each time I approach this yearly task but always end up doing a zen-like, two hour meditative cooking session. It’s amazing how some of life’s problems can be worked out and I end up with a soup/stew worthy of a revitalizing retreat.
The cooking technique I learned from America’s Test Kitchen. They have much more patience than me and they tried a few approaches to dealing with all of these vegetables. Their final taste testing revealed that just throwing the vegetables into a pot of simmering water produced a soup that was equal to sauteing the onions, celery, and garlic as we all are programmed to do. The olive oil is not missed and, since I’m freezing most of this, some oil, fresh herbs, or spices can be added when I pull a jar of summer from the freezer.
- 1 pond cannelini or navy beans
- 4 tablespoons fine sea salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 3 onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 small celery head (?), coarsely chopped
- 1 bulb garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 8 potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 8 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 parsnips, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
- 5 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound green beans, de-stemmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 24 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
- 1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
- Wash the beans and place in a large, heavy pot. Cover with water by 4-inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. Check the water level, adding more as needed. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper, cover and simmer an additional 1 hour, until the beans are very tender. Always check a few beans to make sure they are all cooked through.
- Place all of the vegetables, remaining salt and pepper (not the parsley yet) into an extremely large pot. Cover with water by 4-inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Add parsley the last 5 minutes.
- When the beans are done, drain and add to the vegetables.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Add any cooked dried pasta shape.
- Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
So, I’ve called this the classic minestrone because of the beans and pasta but the bare bones is just a vegetable soup with endless possibilities. Drizzling olive oil or pesto over the top and coating with Parmesan cheese is very luxurious.
This is usually my good-bye to summer. With temperatures hitting close to 90 each day this last week of September, we are all wondering when the cool weather will arrive. It’s forecast and better catch up to the leaves beginning to turn and fall to the ground. My car is being bombarded with shagbark hickory nuts!