Posts tagged ‘Italian Food’

January 12, 2012

Minestrone Soup with Fresh Pesto

Minestrone Soup with Fresh Pesto

When I want to feel like a fancy peasant, I make soup. I say fancy peasant because the reality is I’ve been too fortunate in life and I am too high maintenance to be a real peasant. But after reading those mammoth Ken Follett novels depicting the life of peasants from the 12th and 14th centuries, hunkering down at the end of a deplorable day to a bowl of soup and day-old bread, I think we all have a little peasant in us when we make a big pot of soup. I love those soup recipes with a long list of ingredients that look like a daunting task, but are almost as simple as making a sandwich. This week I decided to make a big pot of minestrone soup. Swirled right before serving with a dollop of homemade basil pesto, served with a hunk of good multi-grain baguette and a spread of our favorite cheeses.

In my recipe below, I used a few creamy yukon gold potatoes rather than pasta. Feel free to swap the yukons for a cup of so of your favorite small pasta shape. It is best to cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls when served. This prevents the pasta from getting mushy. The addition of fresh pesto was fantastic, and added to the fresh flavor of the vegetables. If you don’t feel like making it yourself, there are some decent jarred pestos on the market. I should mention that making this pesto takes minutes with big results.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE MINESTRONE (Makes a big pot of soup)

  • 3 –  1/4″ slices pancetta, diced (about 1/3lb)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 15oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 or so cups savoy cabbage, chopped
  • 4 small yukon gold potatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1″ chunk parmesan rind
  • 1 zucchini, 1″ dice
  • 6oz green beans, snipped
  • Kosher salt & pepper

Place a large stock pot on medium-high heat and pour a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Add the diced pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to crisp up. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pancetta and cook, stirring until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the beans, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, cabbage, potatoes, and parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir, bring to a boil and immediately reduce to low heat. Simmer covered for one hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning about half way through.

After one hour, add the green beans and diced zucchini and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of fresh pesto on top and a big hunk of fresh baguette on the side.

* You can easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the pancetta and using vegetable stock. Remember to remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.

INGREDIENTS FOR PESTO

  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Put the garlic and basil in a small food processor and blend. Add the olive oil and process again until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. The parmesan is salty so you don’t need to add too much salt.

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January 4, 2012

Three Bean Salad with Rosemary Garlic Oil

Three Bean Salad with Rosemary Garlic Oil

I served this dish over the holidays for a dinner party that included 10 kids on the guest list. I was looking for a sophisticated salad that would appeal to both the adults and children. I’ve adapted this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’ book Giada at Home. Her recipe, Pecorino and Bean salad, has been one of our favorites. With the addition of crunchy snap peas and arugula, along with a bit of spicy red pepper, this was a hit with all ages at my New Years Eve dinner. I love the crunch of the snap peas and green beans. Giving the beans a quick shock in an ice water bath after blanching, helps retain their vibrant green color and fresh flavor. Bite sized chunks of pecorino give the salad a salty twist, perfectly matched with the creamy cannellini beans. I know your family will love this salad as much as we do.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 12oz fresh green beans, snipped
  • 8oz fresh snap peas, strings removed
  • 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup bite sized chunks pecorino cheese
  • 2 oz baby arugula (a couple of big handfuls)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much of a kick you like)
  • Kosher salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute, being careful not to brown or burn it. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and toss in the chopped rosemary.  Stir and set aside to cool.

Fill a 4qt saucepan with water, add a hearty pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set near your stove. Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the green beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the beans are bright green but still crunchy. Remove using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, and plunge into the ice water bowl. Allow to cool in the ice water for a couple of minutes, then lay the beans on a dish towel or paper towels to drain and dry. Repeat the process with the snap peas.

Place the snap peas, green beans, cannellini beans, arugula and pecorino in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the rosemary garlic oil and season with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. You won’t need much salt as the pecorino is salty. Toss the salad together and serve.

* This recipe doubles nicely and is a great salad to serve when entertaining, as it tastes best at room temperature.

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