It’s the height of summer and all the fruits of the garden–zucchinis, tomatoes, and greens abound. What to do with all of them? Sometimes, I just look at the entire bounty in my garden and in the farmer’s markets, and lining the grocery store shelves and wonder, “How can I eat it all in one bite?”
Seriously. How can I eat it all in one fell swoop? I’m suffocating under all the tomatoes and summer vegetables!
These days I’m eating my fill of vegetables, as fast as I can: as snacks in their raw form, in salads, and as fillers for frittata and quiche…and soup.
I love a good soup–and though I did not grow up on homemade minestrone, it is a soup I have grown to love, with its savory tomato base and its medley of vegetables and hearty beans and pasta ingredients. You really can eat it ALL in one bite.
Over the years I have come up with my own variation of minestrone, and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. There is no one perfect recipe for this soup–a friend of mine, a wonderful cook, brought me some soup a few months ago when I was sick and without appetite. Her soup was wonderful, but different from what I would cook. I lapped it up happily, it was delicious.
But first–a pause to admire the beans:
These were beans I picked up at Phipps country Farm, where we went berry picking last month. There is a part of the farm set aside for growing beans, which they then sell in the store–I admired the beans so much I bought two varieties: cranberry (borlotti) and autumn bounty.
The cranberry beans are the tan ones with little dark brown flecks–they sort of look like pinto beans. And the autumn bounty look like palomino horses, with big splotches of burgundy all over the beans’ white bodies. They looked so pretty, they reminded me of candy. (It is a HUGE compliment from this sweet tooth to be described as “candy”–mrmmm).
And here they are–soaking. Remember to soak the beans overnight before using them (if you plan on using the beans for this soup, this is the all-important soaking step).
Okay back to the main thread of soup…
This was a recipe I cobbled together, greatly inspired by tomato provencal soup–I love the orange zest and hot pepper flakes in that recipe, and duly added it to my minestrone.
Additionally, there is a large quantity of vegetables in this soup, so you would do well to prep the vegetables ahead of time, chopping them up as needed, so that when it comes time to cook the soup, things can progress at a calm pace, as opposed to a bunch of sweating and running around chopping things up as you go.
Aside from the prep, this soup is incredibly simple to make–there is a particular order in which to add the vegetables: thicker, more aromatic vegetables first…then the cabbage and kale leaves last.
Recipe follows after the jump…
- about 1 cup of dried beans (such as Great Northern or Pinto or Cranberry/borlotti), picked over and rinsed and soaked overnight
- a couple of handfuls of pasta (rotini is my favorite for this soup)
- 2 lb tomatoes (orrr a 28 ounce can of tomatoes)
- 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (I decreased this from the original 2 onions)
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped (I omitted the celery because I didn’t have any)
- 2 zucchini, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage (preferably Savoy)
- 1/2 pound kale, rinsed, drained, stems discarded, and the leaves chopped (about 6 cups)
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest, finely chopped
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/4 California
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 1/2 cups chicken broth (preferably low-salt)
- 1-2 cups water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch crumbled saffron threads
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes in batches of 2 or 3 in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling water 10 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.
Peel tomatoes, then halve crosswise. Squeeze halves gently, cut sides down, over a sieve set over a bowl to extract seeds and juices, then press on seeds and discard them. Reserve juice and tomatoes.
**if you want to skip the above step, you can substitute with at 28 ounce can of tomatoes, chopped coarse
Cook onions, carrot, celery, garlic, zest, red-pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and bay leaf in oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
Then add the zucchini. Then add the kale and cabbage and cook the mixture, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted.
Add tomatoes with reserved juice, tomato paste, water, chicken broth, salt, pepper, saffron, and 1 teaspoon sugar, then simmer, uncovered, stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a spoon occasionally, 20 minutes.
Drain the beans, and add the beans and pasta (I use rotini) to the soup. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 30 minutes to an hour.
Discard bay leaf and stir in parsley, basil, and sugar and salt to taste.
You can make the soup a day or so in advance and keep it chilled. Reheat the soup, thinning it with water as desired. Serve and enjoy!