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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Minestrone

This soup was inspired by a lovely recipe I found in Alice Waters' book, the Art of Simple Food. This is turning into a really great book to own. The hard cover and illustrations give the book a timeless feel, and the content ranges from practical recipes of all genres, to specific cooking techniques and recommendations for utensils and pantry staples. After owning the book for only a few weeks I find myself referencing it almost daily. Her recipes often give you the "bare bones" to make something simple and tasty (be it ice cream, crepes, a gratin or soup) followed by a few ideas to add variation. The following recipe is a riff on her minestrone soup. You want to cook the beans and the pasta separately, adding the beans toward the end (so they wont be overcooked). Waters also emphasizes the need to allow the flavors to fully develop between the addition of each ingredient. You will definitely want to taste along the way!
Autumn Minestrone
  • 1 cup dried white, cranberry or barlotti beans
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 14 ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 4 big handfuls kale, leaves removed from ribs, rinsed well, and torn into bite sized pieces
  • pinch of salt
  • Half of one butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups reserved bean broth
  • 1 leek, dark green ends removed, quartered lengthwise, chopped into half-inch pieces and rinsed well if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Drizzle of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 package small pasta (like ditilini), cooked per package instructions and drained
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
1) Cook your beans (after soaking for several hours or overnight) in a large pot of water that covers them about 2 inches. Bring water to a boil, then cover and simmer for up to an hour. Add a scant tablespoon of salt after 30 minutes or so. To check if they're done you need to taste along the way. Drain the beans but reserve some of the liquid and set aside.
2) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the onions and celery. Cook until very soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and sage and cook for a few more minuets. Add the tomatoes and kale with a big pinch of salt and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add the squash and water. Bring to a boil.
3) Once boiling, add the leek and reduce heat to a steady simmer. Continue cooking until the squash is soft (15 minutes or so). Finally add the beans and enough of the bean liquid to bring it to a thickness you like. Add the vinegar and a good drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Taste and adjust with more salt or freshly ground pepper if needed.
4) Serve in bowls ladled over the cooked pasta. Garnish each bowl with grated parmesan cheese and a slice of crusty, whole grain bread.

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