Minestrone Soup

Fall in the Bay Area brings a few weeks of sunshine to ripen tomatoes, then rainy and chilly days, perfect Minestrone Soup weather. Pick those ripened tomatoes off the withering vines, combine them with broth and chopped veggies and herbs in a big pot. This is a pretty forgiving recipe, so if you want to clean out the veggie bin of your fridge, throw in what you’ve got. You could use frozen veggies  or canned tomatoes. There is a use for everything, even Parmesan cheese rinds! The rind lends a wonderful flavor to the soup. If it doesn’t break up, leave it in the pot when serving.

10 servings:
1 or more Parmesan rinds
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bunch red Swiss chard, leaves torn off ribs and chopped fine, to make about 3 ½ cups, dice the ribs
1 large red bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1 large green bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1 Tb salt (to taste)
½  tsp fresh minced rosemary
1 Tb fresh minced oregano
1 tsp dried basil
6 cloves garlic, minced
several grinds black pepper
One package (4 links) Aidells chicken sausages. either artichoke and garlic or sun-dried tomato with mozzarella cheese (optional)
1 bay leaf
several shakes red pepper flakes
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or vegetable broth (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)
1 can tomato paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (Roma is best)
OR 28 ounce can San Marzano peeled tomatoes to sub for tomatoes and tomato paste
4 dried Porcini mushrooms
1 rind Parmesan cheese
1  cup peeled and diced carrots (2 large carrots)
2 peeled and diced red potatoes
2/3 cup small pasta (I used the tiny tubes called ditalini for my last batch, but I have also used salad macaroni)
4 small zucchini, diced to make 1 ½ cups
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped.
1 Tb fresh minced basil (about 5 leaves)
 
Garnish:
a few pinches dried oregano to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Heat stock, Parmesan rinds, tomato paste, tomatoes or canned tomatoes  in a large pot.

Grind dried Porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder or small food processor and add to the stock. Add salt to taste.

Scrub mushrooms and rinse well. Dry in paper towel. and cut off woody ends from the stems. Place mushrooms on toaster oven tray and spray with olive oil spray. Broil for 10 minutes. When they cool, cut them in quarters and add to stock.

Stir-fry onions, red bell pepper, chard ribs, garlic, celery, and herbs in  olive oil in a heavy skillet until translucent. Add to stock.

Slice sausages in quarters lengthwise and then into half-coins. Stir fry in the same skillet as the onions were in for about 4 minutes, until browned. Add to soup, then ladle some soup into the frying pan and scrape the browned bits into the soup, then pour back into the pot.

Stir in carrots, chard leaves, canned beans, and potato and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pasta, green beans, zucchini, parsley, corn and peas. Cook 10 minutes on medium. Stir in fresh basil.

Discard bay leaf and ladle into bowl. Stir in a pinch of dried oregano, fresh basil, and a few spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a slice of good bread such as Acme herb slab, foccacia, olive bread, or sourdough baguette. Manga!

A Tale of Two Squash: Squash soup and Squash tacos

It was the best of squash,  it was….well anyway, there once were two butternut squash that were roasted in the oven.

but after becoming caramelized and soft, they headed for two different fates: one a smooth creamy soup made with broth and sage; the other filled spicy tacos with a burst of freshness from cilantro.

Butternut Squash Soup

Heat 3 cups broth (see Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

If squash has not cooked completely in oven, put seeded and peeled cooked squash in broth. Add  a large peeled and chopped red potato, and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Or I bake a Russet potato with the squash, halve it and peel it.  If both squash and potato are soft, you can skip boiling them and just plop them in the blender with the soup and sage.

squash in broth

Put it in the blender with the soup, several torn sage leaves, and a ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste). You can omit the potato and make this soup with Potato-Leek soup base for a creamier, savory taste. Or try part broth, part potato-leek soup.

Heat raw pepitas (green shelled Mexican pumpkin seeds) on a comal or heavy frying pan until they begin to pop.

Garnish soup with seeds and a sage leaf.

Butternut Squash Tacos

mash squash

Simpler veggie version: Seed and peel squash and mash with ¼ cup butternut squash soup. Add ½ tsp. cumin and a few shakes chili powder or chipotle powder and salt. Grate or slice 2 tsp low fat cheddar cheese for each taco and add to squash.

tortilla with squash and cheese with pepitas on comal

Heat corn tortilla on comal, spread squash-cheese mixture on top.

Add salsa to taste, then toasted pepitas (you can toast them while heating the tortilla). Finish with chopped tomato and fresh cilantro.

ground turkey squash taco

Ground turkey version: Heat 1 Tb garlic infused olive oil (or regular olive oil) and add ½ chopped onion and one pound ground turkey. Add 1 chopped red or yellow bell pepper and 3 chopped Roma tomatoes. Season with 1 tsp each cumin and chipotle or chili powder, black pepper and chili flakes, 3 Tb salsa, and salt to taste. Cook until turkey is brown, add ½ cup butternut squash, and a squeeze of lime to cut the sweetness of the squash. Heat corn tortilla and fill with mixture. Add as desired: chopped lettuce, tomato, guacamole,  shredded low-fat cheese, more salsa, and cilantro. For a vegetarian version, substitute pinto  beans for turkey.