Thursday, January 24, 2008
Minestrone saves the day
Last night I realized I wouldn't have time to make tonight's dinner when I got home because I had a haircut scheduled for 6 p.m. and we get home at 5 or so. I conferred with Chris and we decided that we would just go grab some reasonably healthy fast food and I could make my planned soup when I got home, for weekend lunches perhaps.
However, when last night's aquafit class was unexpectedly cancelled, I suddenly had time to put the soup together ahead of time, which turned out to be even more fortuitous given that we had a family emergency tonight that took precedence over the haircut and any making-dinner plans. (Everyone's OK; it was just a very busy afternoon/eveing.) Coming home to a huge pot of minestrone that needed only reheating was a gift indeed.
I'd never made minestrone before; in fact, I always thought I didn't like it, since chunky vegetable soups were never my cup of tea while I was growing up. But I read a recipe for this traditional Italian soup on a webzine called Culinate a few weeks ago, and it sounded awfully tasty all of a sudden, so I threw it into the online recipe file to try when I had time.
It's one of those great recipes that lets you do all your chopping in sequence: you chop your onion and start cooking it low and slow in the pan, then chop up the carrots, add them to the pan; chop celery, add to pan, and so forth. It's a fun and time-effective way to cook. I put on a great CD and got to work. It helps that I really do love chopping vegetables; I find it peaceful and calming. Once all the veg were in my soup pot, I could barely find room for the water and seasonings. This is one seriously thick soup - almost a vegetable stew, really. The seasonings are subtle and don't overpower the flavours of the vegetables. It's hearty and comforting, and also offers a hit of protein with the beans.
I cheated a little and cooked the soup without the beans, because at the time they were still sitting dry and tough in a bag in my pantry. Once the soup was done and simmering, I brought them to a quick boil and then threw them into the slow cooker for six hours. I used pinto beans because that's what I had, and they work fine with the soup. Next time I'll cook them for only five hours - they came out a little soft, but beautifully creamy and flavourful. When we got home tonight I threw two cups into the soup and heated it all up together. We ate the soup sprinkled with the last of our Grana Padano cheese, with some seven-grain bead and butter on the side. It was just the thing for a cold night when both of us were tired out. Even better, there are tons of leftovers for tomorrow's lunch and the weekend's lazy days.
It seems the new year has brought with it a fairly intense desire to cook new recipes, and the Cooking Light website is proving to be a huge inspiration for me. I hope you're all enjoying reading about the new meals as much as we're enjoying eating them!