Oh boy is it ever soup weather out there! We had the most glorious weekend up in New Hampshire. The air was laced with a chill that was not yet bitter, but cold enough to make you happy for any down or wool clothing you had brought. And the leaves were so electric and brilliant they’re indescribable (those maple trees, such show-offs! ;0). That kind of weather makes me want to go for long hikes and eat apples.
But, now we have melancholy grey skies and rain (I biked in to the office today, and by the time I arrived it looked like I had forgotten to take my clothes off before I showered!). And that means it’s time to wrap a comfort blanket like a skirt around your legs to help you stay warm because you still don’t want to turn the heat on, put on a pot of tea (because you’re trying to cut back on coffee, and yes this makes you a little bit cranky because for some of us tea just does not cut it…but I digress), and to make soup.
This soup actually didn’t start off as soup. Like silly putty or post-it notes, it was a happy accident – er, a much more edible accident than either of the former. In its first iteration, it was a ridiculously large pot of Provencal greens, which is to say it was my attempt at making ratatouille when I didn’t have any eggplants or zucchini, but did have bok choy and chard bursting from every corner of the fridge. It’s full of the warm, heady flavors of bay leaf, juniper berries, oregano, and tomatoes.
Then when we were eating it, Joel exclaimed, “hey, you know what this tastes like?! That soup with the noodles.” “Umm, minestrone?” ”Yeah, that’s it.” And I realized, it sort of does! A very flavorful, nuanced minestrone (without raisins! My mom used to make a minestrone with raisins, and I did not feel that they belonged in my bowl of soup). And so with the leftovers I threw in a cup or so of broth and some noodles, and voila, minestrone!
There are no beans in my soup, as usual, since I can’t eat beans. But, they would definitely be a nice addition, and make the soup that much heartier and more warming. What I really would have loved, had I had it around would have been to toss in some cheese tortellini. Well, next time. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be many more soup days to come.
Accidental Minestrone (serves 4-6)
- olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- a couple of cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1 bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 4-5 juniper berries (if you have none, substitute one more bay leaf)
- 1 Tbs. each dried oregano and basil
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 4-5 baby bok choy and a small bunch of rainbow chard, washed, tough portions of the stems removed, and chopped (really you can use any cooking greens, like kale or spinach as well, you just want a whole mess of them – a couple pounds)
- 5 medium tomatoes, chopped (or a large can of chopped tomatoes)
- 2 large strips of orange zest or lemon zest
- a big glug of red wine (if you have it)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup uncooked, smallish pasta like small shells or bowties or a couple of cups uncooked cheese tortellini
- optional 1 can white beans, drained, and rinsed
- salt and pepper
- In a large pot, heat a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil over medium. Stir in the onion, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper, and cook until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes. Next, stir in all the herbs (bay leaves- thyme), cook for one minutes, then stir in the greens and the orange/lemon zest.
- Cook the greens, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 minutes, until they are quite wilted. Add the tomatoes and the wine and cook for another 10 or so minutes until the tomatoes have released a good deal of liquid. Add the broth, cover and bring to a boil.
- Add the pasta (and beans, if using), turn the heat down to a simmer, and then simmer for 10-15 minutes until the pasta is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese if you wish, and enjoy while watching the rain and/or cold outside your window and feeling rather cozy and pleased with yourself.