I heart film. - A little over a year ago I bought a Canon Ae-1 and last week I found the first roll of film I shot on it and finally had it processed (Its been a crazy year ...
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I LOVE this time of year - late summer, as the temperatures drop and autumn fast approaches. Everything is beautifully green in Berlin, there are breezy, sunny days mixed in with gray rainy ones - and the farmers market is still brimming with all that summer harvest. Its the best of both worlds. Its also a great time to make soup.
I am a big fan of soup for a lot of reasons - its usually inexpensive, it freezes well, makes great lunches later on (either for yourself or to put in a thermos for kiddos), and it (usually) doesn't dirty a lot of dishes or require hours and hours of slaving away (in others words, its easy). Its also the most comforting, soothing thing I can think of - no matter what the season.
For almost my entire life, my only exposure to Minestrone soup, however, had been from those infamous red and white cans. No disrespect, but that stuff is just plain awful - and as a result I had gone most of my life thinking I hated Minestrone soup. Oh how wrong I was. Minestrone, it turns out, its probably one of my favoritist things ever. It combines some my favorite things (veggies, beans, pasta) into one of my favorite dishes (soup). Its easily adapted for any season and it makes a hearty, filling and super healthy meal. This particular Minestrone has skyrocketed to the top of my all-time-favorite soups list - the broth is intensely flavored, earthy from the beans (and their cooking liquid), but also a bit sweet from the leeks and zucchini. Its a perfect meal for a rainy late August or early September day.
Summer Minestrone Soup
(adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food)
225g dried beans (like Borlotti or Cannellini - I used a kind that were labeled Marmor beans and that I had honestly never seen before. They worked wonderfully) - this yields around 675g (3 cups) cooked beans.
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 5 stalks fresh)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 small leek, diced
2 medium Zucchini, diced (roughly 3 cups diced)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup frozen chopped spinach (or of course fresh if you have it - I keep frozen on hand all the time so I prefer not to buy something new)
225ml (1 cup) bean cooking liquid (or more if necessary)
1 or 2 cups cooked pasta (I used an artisan over-sized macaroni to provide a contrast to all the small veggies - I loved it. However, anything from vermicelli to penne to regular macaroni would taste great).
First, prepare your beans (this is something I have usually done days before and keep on hand in the fridge or freezer). It is an important step in this soup however, because much of the amazing, unique flavor from this soup comes from using the bean cooking liquid.
Soak the beans overnight and drain. Put in a large stockpot or dutch oven with plenty of water (at least a few inches over the level of the beans). Add a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 to 4 hours depending on your beans (I usually find I need at least 3 hours). Just taste the beans to know when they are done. Add salt at the very end and let cook for a few minutes more. Make sure to let beans cool in their liquid or their skins will peel off (if you are storing them, also store them in their cooking liquid). Be sure to reserve a few cups of the cooking liquid for use in the soup (though I found the amount I stored the 3 cups of beans in to be just about the right amount).
In a heavy bottomed stock pot or french cast iron pot (my preference for making soup) heat a few Tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
Add the minced garlic, thyme, bay leaf and salt. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat back to medium, then add the leek and let cook, covered, for another 5 minutes or so.
Add the zucchini, tomatoes and spinach and cook (again, covered or I found I lost too much of the broth) for 15 minutes. Add the cooked beans and bean cooking liquid. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Cover again and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. If the soup is seeming a bit crowded/thick, add more water or bean cooking liquid to your taste (if its the opposite uncover and let simmer for a few minutes to boil-off some of the liquid). Add the cooked pasta, let cook for just another minute or two and ladle into bowls to serve. You could garnish with Parmesan cheese or croutons but I found it to be filling and perfect just on its own as well.