I realize there’s been a lot of meaty talk around here lately.
Ironic, isn’t it? There’s the siren call of the Charcutepalooza, yet, most often, I’m cooking for just the two of us. Dennis, a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat (a meat reducer is his term) and me, an omnivore with a tendency toward high cholesterol and a few extra pounds.
So, I’m careful. And we treat meat as a special occasion meal. We invite friends over to celebrate. We source any meat that we do eat from local farmers. I’ve written about the farms, the farmers, and the responsibility of conscious eating.
I don’t think it’s contrary to set off on a year of meat curing, but I do intend to do so thoughtfully. Once monthly Charcutepaloozas and Moderation Otherwise.
As it’s the first of the year, everyone has a solution for losing weight or healthier living or what not. Of all of them, Mark Bittman got my attention when he wrote so eloquently about his vegan before six o’clock strategy.
I’ve never responded well to denial. I’m better suited to moderation. This is a concept I can embrace. But when even moderation seems beyond my grasp, I make this minestrone. It’s ridiculously healthy, filling and satisfying.
Use the chopping of the vegetables as a meditation. A knife skills lesson. (Did you resolve to learn better knife skills? Practice practice practice!) Make the pieces as equal in size and as pretty as possible. Chop and add to the pot as you go, stirring and coating in the oil each time, adding salt and pepper in each layer.
I make this soup using the vegetable bouillon I will now always and forever have in the refrigerator and freezer thanks to Jennifer Perillo. If you haven’t made it yet, make a resolution to do so. (Note: This easy to preserve stock base is, necessarily, high in salt, so use caution when adding salt at other steps along the way.)
Of course, the soup may also be made with homemade chicken stock, or, the more traditional veal stock.
But moderation means vegetable stock in this house. And tastes of summer from the freezer – lima beans, tomato paste, oven roasted tomatoes. This soup requires time to build a multi-layered flavorful base. It’s rich in vegetable goodness.
This soup will not be rushed. It’s an all day soup. Even better the next day.
Makes 2 quarts
1/4 c olive oil
3 medium onions
3-4 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
3 medium zucchini
1/2 Napa or Savoy cabbage
2 c lima beans (substitute cannelini, kidney, or navy beans)
2 oz double strength tomato paste
12 oven roasted or sun dried tomatoes, minced
6 c vegetable broth
3-4 pieces of Parmesian rind
Plenty of salt and pepper
Garnish: Parmesian, grated or curls
Take your time making this soup. The process, start to finish will take about 45 minutes. The cooking will take another 3-4 hours.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy 5 qt. stock pot over medium heat.
Cut the onions in half vertically, then into half moon slices. Saute them in the oil very slowly. About 15 minutes., until they are golden brown. This is the most important step – the onions will melt down and ultimately will thicken the soup. Do not rush this process.
You’ll want to salt and pepper each layer of vegetables. Beware adding too much salt if you are using a saltier soup base.
While the onions are sauteeing, chop the carrots and celery into 1/2″ dice. Chop the zucchini into 1/2″ dice. Chop the cabbage into thin slivers.
When the onions are golden brown, add the carrots and celery and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the zucchini. Stir to coat, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the cabbage and stir well. Add the beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Tuck the parmesian rinds here and there. Bring the soup to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer at a very low temperature for 3-4 hours.