Minestrone

By Wendy Monro

This time of year, I love to cook and eat soup. It really does warm me up. If I am feeling chilly, I like a hot bath or a bowl of soup or both. Those two things are all that seem to warm me up from the inside out. Soup is amazing because you get so many nutritious ingredients in one small bowl. In a prior article, I wrote about soups being the origin of what we now know as a restaurant. I think about that every time I make soup. I can envision people walking home from work on a cold night and deciding to pop into a small room to grab a cup of piping hot soup.

I decided to make a big pot of minestrone this weekend to enjoy while we handed out candy for Halloween. I usually make chili and cornbread for Halloween. This year, I decided to do things a bit differently. I will put out a few decorations out, warm up the soup, turn on a spooky movie, and wait for the kids to arrive. I like to hand out full size candy bars. I love to see the excitement on the parent’s faces when they see these. I think the parents like to steal all of the full size candy bars. At least, that is what their reaction seems to reveal. Hopefully, some of the kids get to enjoy them too.

In my mom’s neighborhood, Debbie, a neighbor, makes a huge pot of chili and hands out plastic bowls of chili to all of the parents. I would love to do this with either chili or soup but my mom’s neighborhood is different. Everyone knows each other there. They have block parties and the kids all go to the same school. My neighborhood is not like that. We never have block parties. Some houses around us are vacation homes and we rarely see the residents. Others don’t wave back. That took a lot of getting used to when we first moved here. How do you see someone wave and not wave back? It’s so rude. So, I don’t think anyone would eat my soup. I will just have to enjoy it with my family as all of the costumed children ring our doorbell for some candy.

There are so many different ways I like to make soup. Recently I learned how to make soup in my Vitamix. I love this because I just throw all of the ingredients in and mix. It even heats it up. I also enjoy making soup in a slow cooker. That is perfect for getting it together in the morning to have it ready to serve when I get home from running errands. However, usually, I make soup in a Dutch oven. I love my Dutch oven. It was a gift from my friend Karen who used to work at a kitchen store. It’s Le Creuset, which are generally expensive because they are so high quality and last forever. She was able to get it on sale and use her employee discount. That was very lucky for me. I use this all of the time for stews, braising, curries, and soups.

I thought about different types of soups and wanted something hearty since I was not making chili. The combination of kidney beans, vegetables and pasta make for a filling and nutritious soup. Also, I thought this soup would work well with corn bread. I still wanted to make corn bread to go along with it. That is a tradition I did not want to mess with. I think I will include my corn bread recipe here too because it was perfect together and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on this combination.

Minestrone:

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

zucchini, sliced and quartered

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

teaspoon Italian seasoning

teaspoon salt

teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons fresh basil, julienned

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 cups vegetable broth

6 ounces diced tomatoes with juice

12 ounces crushed tomatoes

cup hot water

1 bay leaf

can 14 ounce Italian cut green beans, drained

15 ounce can red kidney beans

1 cup pasta

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot on medium heat. Add onion and saut until translucent. Add garlic and saut another minute. Add zucchini, carots, celery and all spices. Stir for three minutes. Add vegetable broth, tomatoes, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for thirty minutes. Stir occasionally. Add green beans, kidney beans and pasta. Cook about fifteen minutes or until pasta is al dente. Remove bay leaf.

Corn bread:

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup cornmeal

cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and butter. Pour milk mix into cornmeal mix and fold together. It can be lumpy. Pour batter into dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It is finished when top is golden and a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

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