Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Minestrone for Fall

While it is foggy in Ventura, you might enjoy a Minestrone. You might not think you like minestrone. This soup can evoke memories of trying to choke down soggy tomatoes and zucchini. Who would do that to a vegetable?
I've had a Minestrone Renaissance- I cook everything al dente, garnish it with plenty of fresh basil and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano from my great grandmother's Italian wooden cheese grater, and pair it with a hunk of Kate Pepper's delicious bread. Minestrone uses the vast majority of the ingredients in the summer harvest, and with some technique- it is a perfect light summer dinner. Give it another try.

I've been doing my minestrone research; minestrone means "the big soup" and comes from a style of cooking the Italians call "cucina povera"- the poor kitchen. Like most provincial food, it is based on what is abundant- so use what you got.

Start with a base of sauteéd onions and garlic cooked in butter and olive oil until they are translucent. Add your herbs (rosemary, thyme, fresh oregano or marjoram). Add stock and water in ratio with the amount of soup you want. While the stock is coming to a boil, prepare your ingredients.

Potatoes- cubed
Zucchini- cut in thick rounds, half moon, or quarters
Tomatoes- quartered
Peppers- sliced
Chard- cut into strips
Basil- cut into thin strips
Cannellini Beans- cooked, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add the potatoes to the stock and boil until tender. Add the beans.
Meanwhile, sauté the chard with salt and butter. In a separate pan, sauté the zucchini and sweet peppers just until al dente with more fresh herbs and salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are ready, combine the zucchini, peppers, chard, fresh tomatoes, and 1/2 the basil . Let simmer for a minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a large flat bowl and garnish with fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a dash of cream. (You may like to add pasta shells at the end)

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There is plenty of gozo at Rio Gozo Farm. That is JOY in Spanish and joy is one of the most dependable products we have. Gozo is commonly found in gardens and farms. Once you get a little gozo up and going it is very tolerant of most pests, withstands dry periods, and grows with a modicum of fertilizer. After gozo becomes a staple of one's diet, it goes with about anything. Actually folks crave it so much it is a wonder everyone does not have a patch of it growing close at hand. Grab up some gozo and get with the flow.