Thursday, May 16, 2013


Minestrone has many interpretations. It developed as a soup using what fresh vegetables one had, or left overs, and often pasta or rice was thrown in.  I read a bit about the history on wikipedia: Originating in Italy, minestrone belongs to the style of cooking known as "cucina povera", which translates as "poor kitchen," meaning dishes that have rustic, rural roots. I knew I wanted to use kidney beans... and let it grow from there. It turned out good, really good, but I thought it could be better.
So, a couple weeks later, I gave it another try, and I'm glad I did. A few changes made a difference for the better: I soaked my own beans instead of using canned and used the 'bean water'. I also chopped the veggies a little bigger.

1 cup dry kidney beans
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
11/2 zucchini, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 baby portabello mushrooms
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 heaping cup of pasta (I used mini shells)
5-6 cups of low sodium 'not chicken' broth

Soak the beans in water overnight and then rinse, drain and cook them in 5 cups of water and salt for about 35-45 minutes, until done, or near done.
Saute the onion, carrot, and celery in a bit of olive oil or water for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms, zucchini, oregano, and basil. Stir to combine and cook for a minute. Add the broth, tomato sauce, sugar, beans and juice (there should be about 1 1/2 cups of water remaining from cooking the beans). Bring to a boil, add the pasta, reduce to a low boil and cook until the pasta is al dente. I actually cooked mine until near done, turned off the heat and let the pasta continue to cook and the soup to thicken.
Usually, a good pinch of parmesan is called for. You can use nutritional yeast or make something like this quick homemade parmesan-style cheese.

1/4 cup raw cashews
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp onion powder

Grind the nuts with the back of the the measuring spoon, or a grinder. Mix with the salt and onion powder, give it a spirtz of olive oil and bake at 350 for 3-5 minutes, just until golden.

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