Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegan Minestrone

When I was in college, my great aunt Flora (gardener, foodie, all-around amazing human being), taught me how to make Minestrone. It's based on a recipe she clipped from the San Francisco Chronicle Food Section many, many years ago. Were she here now, Flora would tell you that the soffritto (the Italian variation of mirepoix) is the most important element, and it's true. Without it, the soup lacks flavor and depth.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you can play around with the ingredients, substituting vegetables and legumes to suit your tastes and the seasons. You could also add pasta, protein, get the idea.

Vegan Minestrone
Makes about 18 1-cup servings

For the soffritto:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small (or 1/2 of one large) white onion, diced very fine
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced very fine
2 stalks celery, diced very fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

For the soup:
2 cups vegetable stock
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
3 cups water
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 medium yellow (summer) squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh, minced)
1 bunch Swiss chard, stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped
salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 tablespoons pesto

1. Saute the soffritto: In a medium or large soup/stock pot over medium high heat, saute the onion, carrots and celery in the olive oil until the onion is translucent and the vegetables release their juices. This takes about 10 minutes; a sprinkle of salt aids the process. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two. (Adding the garlic any earlier will cause it brown and become bitter.)

2. Make the soup: Add the vegetable stock, tomatoes and water. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil. Add the beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes or until the zucchini and squash start to get tender. Stir in the Swiss chard and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the chard starts to get tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I'm guessing I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. But I like my food salty.)

3. Just before serving, stir in the pesto. Don't cook the soup after you've added the pesto; doing so will dampen its bright flavor.



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