Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup


Vegetable soups, like minestrone, are very hit-or-miss for me.  I lean towards versions that have a super fresh taste, and are more broth-y than tomoato-y.  Unfortunately, minestrone more often conjures up bad memories of Panera-esque soups that have been heated from frozen and sitting on an electric burner for a few days rather than cold Italian nights in Nona's kitchen out in the Appenines.  Trust me, I worked at an Einstein's Bagels in college and I know how this soup thing goes.  (Although they do, in fact, bake fresh bagels every morning at 5am.  Obviously, a college student's dream job.)  That thick, viscous, leaves-an-oily-film-on-your-lips consistency offends me.

I've never made minestrone before, but I figured it was easy.  I'm not always right, but I was right about that!  If you have some beans and hearty vegetables around, along with some tomatoes, stock, and a spice rack, then you can make a simple minestrone.
Ingredients (makes 5-6 servings):
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced carrot (you can make it a large dice, if you prefer)
  • 4 cups fresh, roughly chopped grean beans
  • 1 zucchini, large dice
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) of whole, stewed tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 4-6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Chop the onions and add them to a large pot of heated olive oil.  Add salt, pepper, and the bay leaf and cook about three minutes, or until softened.  Add the carrots and garlic, paprika, and oregano.  Continue to cook until soft, about another five minutes.
Meanwhile, wash and chop the green beans and zucchini.  Add the green beans to the pot and stir for about three minutes to get them cooking through.  Then, add the zucchini and parsley.  Add salt and pepper to flavor the vegetable base.  Cook for about five minutes.
The vegetables should be evenly soft, and you can add the tomato paste.  Stir to distribute it evenly over the cooked vegetables.  Add the canned tomato, crushing them in your hands, along with the juice from the can.  Pour in the chicken stock and cous cous, and bring to a boil.  (You could definitely use lentils instead of couscous, if you wanted to make this GF).
Drain and rinse the beans.  When the soup is boiling and the cous cous is cooked through, add the beans and spinach to cook for a few more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and continue to cook just a few more minutes until ready to eat.  If you've got shredded parmesan cheese around and want the soup to be richer and more calorific, by all means add it!

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