Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tuscan Minestrone

Ya, I've been blogging a lot about food.  I'm kind of into it at 16 weeks pregnant and with the cold weather...bring on the soups.

I've been on a sort of quest (so dramatic right?) to find a good minestrone recipe for a long time.  This one is the best I've found so far, so I thought it was worth posting.  I feel like it gets bonus points for being from the Silver Spoon too which is the very traditional Italian dictionary sized cook book.  I'll never get through all the recipes... sigh - never.

1/2 cup toscanelli or cannellini beans (I used canned white northern *self admitted cheater* ;)
       soaked overnight in cold water and drained
1 fresh rosemary sprig-1 bay leaf
4 Tbls olive oil
1 onion, chopped - 1 celery stalk chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 Tbls chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 escarole head, chopped
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 leek, white part only chopped
scant 1/2 cup long grain rice - salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to serve

The ingredient list is written a little bit odd...like the onion and celery listed on one line, but that's how it is in this giant book, so I let you have the same experience (except for the food stain on the page). :)

I'll list the directions verbatim and then list my alterations.

Put the beans, rosemary and bay leaf into a pan, add cold water to cover, bring to boil and simmer for about 2 hours.  Remove and discard the hers, then transfer half the beans to a food processor and process to a pure`e.  Scrape the pure`e back into the pan.  Heat the oil in another pan, add the onion, celery, carrot and parsley and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the escarole, tomato, zucchini and leek and cook for a further 10 minutes.  Stir the vegetable mixture into the beans.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more hot water if necessary.  Bring to a boil, add the rice and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender.  Ladle into a soup tureen and serve with parmesan.


So...my beans were already cooked.  But I still wanted the herbs to infuse my water...but how much water?  It didn't say how much to use to cook dry beans to start with...so how much for canned?  Hmmmmmm.    I doubled the recipe and used two 15 oz cans of beans, so I added two can's full of water- or one can of water per one can of rinsed drained beans.  Seemed good, I put the lid on so the water wouldn't reduce away into the air....though that would be nice since the air is so dry these days. ;)  After a few minutes, steam started to escape the lid and a wonderful rosemary smell made me very happy.


Now here's a nice picture of beans pure`eing.  :)
So here's a fun little tid bit...I just love tid bits my self. :)  The soup base of celery, onion and carrot is french based and is called mirepoix.  This has flat leaf parsley added as a guest to the party in a pan-or skillet rather, but that's not so fun without the double alliterated (not sure that's a word) "p".  Ya, I typed that and am going to leave it too. ;)
What's this picture...?  Oh ya, it's for when I have a web link and haven't listed out all the ingredients.  Pretty much a pointless picture really. :)  Though the leather treatment bottle back there matches the tomatoes well.  It does right?  Well, maybe the bottle is more maroon actually.  Moving on.  It would have matched catchup.  Okay, I'll stop.
Maybe it's not a pointless image.  Your detective skills may have noticed I used canned tomatoes... and you will hopefully support me in this decision in January.  No (I should say, not many) tomatoes in January are worth peeling and seeding.  Cherry tomatoes aren't half bad, but peeling 30 of them wasn't really on my timeline if you know what I'm sayin'.  I added them in with the beans instead of the saute` pan since they were more saucy than fresh.

Another thing your sharp eyes may have weaseled out is..."chard?  where's the escarole?".  Ya, "where's the escarole?" was my question at the grocery as well.  I had to get chard instead.  Not the same.  It's sweet, not bitter and I'm bitter I didn't get to use it for dinner tonight.  Especially since it's minestrone...my quest has been compromised (since I didn't want to make two stops).
See those three black beans in this picture below?  at the last minute, I remembered I had leftover cooked rice and beans in the fridge and just about the perfect amount.  Score!  Shave off 20 minutes.  Though it does look like I charred to death a few northern beans...I don't think the 20 of them mounted much of an effort on changing the overall end flavor.  And speaking of flavor.  Jeepers does it need salt and pepper "to taste" at the end as directed.  Sure, I used "no salt added" tomato and rinsed the beans so they weren't salty...but I wasn't expecting that on the first taste test.  I bunch of interesting undertones of rosemary and veggies...but NO salt savory delight whatsoever.  Once that minor detail was attended to, the soup was very good.  I love good cheese on top of any soup, but this simple comforting soup needs it for a pop of flavor on top.  And dog gone-it...I'm going to make it again with escarole if it's the last thing I do.


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