With the return of fall, I thought it would be appropriate to give you the recipe for a nice hearty soup. There are a ton of soups that are great for a cool fall day. Zucchini and roasted red pepper is one of my favorites. Mushroom or broccoli soups are also great. These are all pureed soups and can really pack a lot of flavor while warming your insides up.
When thinking of hearty soups, however, I think of the soups with a lot of stuff in them. Chicken gumbo with all the rice and chicken chunks, as well as chicken noodle with noodles and veggies are the types of soups that will fall into the hearty category. With all the soups of this nature that you can think of, minestrone is the one that really epitomizes hearty. Filled with an assortment of vegetables and beans, one big bowl of minestrone soup served with a nice piece of Italian bread can easily make an entire meal.
Making a batch of minestrone soup is fairly easy. The hard part is not making enough soup to feed the entire neighborhood. As you start cutting up the veggies, it is easy to think that it doesn’t seem possible that just one carrot or one stick of celery can possibly be enough. This recipe will make about 1 gallon of soup. So, if you want to add more of any item, you will obviously start needing more mouths to eat it or more containers in which to save the leftovers. This soup does get better the next night.
“Filled with an assortment of vegetables and beans, one big
bowl of minestrone soup served with a nice piece
of Italian bread can easily make an entire meal.”
All the vegetables are cut into slices. When in my apprenticeship, the cut was called paysanne, which meant flat and triangular, but the only thing you want to do is to cut them close to the same size so they will cook evenly. Be sure to do all the cutting before you start the cooking because things get added quickly once the sautéing has begun.
The beans used are usually white beans or navy beans, but pinto beans or any other bean can be substituted. Be sure to cook the beans first if you are not using precooked, canned beans. If using canned beans, rinse them before adding them to the soup. No matter which beans you decide on, they will be added at the end of the soup-making process.
Once everything is cut and your beans are cooked, you are ready to begin. Sauté the onion and garlic lightly. You want to let some of the flavors start to be released before adding the other veggies. Because the cut of the vegetables is fairly thin, you can go ahead and throw them all in the pot together. You do not want to overcook the veggies or they’ll be mushy.
The next step is to add the stock. Add enough stock to cover the veggies by about 2 to 3 inches and bring it to a boil. Turn the soup down right away to a simmer and let it cook for about 15 minutes. Add the beans and season with a little thyme, salt and pepper.
This recipe is one I learned a long time ago and is awesome. There are, however, no set rules — change the ratio of vegetables or even the type of veggies you use. It is basically a vegetable beef soup with beans in it. Just remember, the important thing is to get a spoonful of stuff with each bite and not just broth.
Sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese over the bowl of soup just before serving, add a slice of bread and enjoy.
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small white turnip or ½ medium turnip, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1/3 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 leek (discard the tops of the green), thinly sliced
2 cans 15-ounce white kidney beans
2 quarts stock
3 sprigs of thyme leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of parmesan cheese
Sauté the onion and garlic quickly. Add the rest of the veggies and sauté for a few minutes. Do not overcook the veggies; they should still be a little crunchy. Cover veggies with beef stock to about 3 inches and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add the beans. Once the soup comes to a boil, it is ready to season with the thyme, salt and pepper.
Grate a little parmesan cheese over the top of the bowl just before serving.
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. To read archived copies of Smitty’s column, visit chefsmitty.com or TheTahoeWeekly.com. Contact him at [email protected] or (530) 412-3598.