Horn BlowingOctober 15th, 2010
In general, I'm not shy about touting my strengths. I hope I'm not obnoxious about it, but I probably am. I can be a ridiculous name dropper and have even proven–in the middle of a party–that I can still do the splits. Really, I can be kind of a jerk.
BUT I rarely blow my own horn as a cook. I'm really not that good a cook. I mean, I have a good vibe in the kitchen, but I'm extremely messy and rarely think up new things… When someone calls me a chef, I laugh and correct them quickly.
Soooo, when I do think up something nice, I get extremely excited, and I yell it from the moutaintops. Here goes:
Really Good Minestrone
Please forgive the lack of specifics on this recipe… I made it for twenty people recently and just eyeballed it.
Approx I cup kidney beans, soaked overnight
6 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade, but don't go crazy)
1/2 a winter squash, preferably Hokkaido pumpkin or buttercup, in chunks
a few large carrots, chopped into big chunks
1 medium beet
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 head green cabbage, diced
1 cup green beans, sliced on the diagonal
White miso, if needed, for extra taste
1 cup whole wheat macaroni noodles, cooked, if desired.
Chopped parsley to garnish
Bring kidney beans to a boil in fresh water to cover. As the water cooks away, add a cup of cold water, carefully poured down the side of the pot. This is the shocking method, and it works very well for cooking beans. Cook until they are soft. Salt to taste: remember, you want the beans to be tasty–inside and out–so don't skimp on the salt here.
While the beans are cooking, place the squash, carrot and beet in a pressure cooking and add water that goes about halfway up the vegetables. This is your no-mato sauce that whill make the soup taste tomato-y. Close the lid and bring to pressure. Reduce heat and let simmer for about ten minutes. Let the pressure come down and scoop the vegetables into a food processor, with the liquid.
Whiz the veggies until smooth. Add umeboshi vinegar first. This will give the no-mato liquid the tang and slight acidity of tomatoes. Keep adding until it tastes nice and tomato-y to you. It will permeate the whole soup, so don't be afraid of making it strong. Add a teaspoon or so of shoyu just to round out the taste and darken the sauce slightly. If needed, add more.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft. Add the celery and the herbs and continue to saute for a few minutes. Pour in vegetable stock and kidney beans and bring to a boil.
If you're using noodles, now is a good time to cook them and rinse them with cold water until needed.
When the stock and beans are simmering, add the no-mato sauce. Let it all come together as a soup. Add cabbage, beans and miso, if needed. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, if you're using noodles, put them in last.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley.
Of course, like I said, I eyeballed this recipe so you may find that you need more seasoning, more vegetables or more herbs.
You might also want to make this in a slightly larger batch and freeze half of it for soupy afternoons this winter.