Larrupin

Uncommonly Good

Snow Day Minestrone

Thursday, with an ice storm underway and the snow moving in, my daily Chow email came with a recipe for Minestrone.
Minestrone is a hearty Italian peasant soup, made with the vegetables of the season and it sounded perfect for Snow Day. (When the grown-ups have Snow Day it is an official designation and should be capitalized, unlike snow days when the schools close but most of the grown ups still have to work.)

I found there is no “original” recipe for minestrone, but the ingredients were determined by the season and region in which it was made. Minestrone can be a brothy soup with vegetables that still have some crunch to them; or it can be cooked for hours, breaking down all the vegetables into a thick medley of amazing flavors. This recipe leans toward the brothy version.

I skipped the butter in the original recipe and went with just olive oil. I found other recipes that started with diced bacon and then adding the vegetables to to bacon and drippings. I’ll try that next time. This is how my Snow Day Minestrone played out.
Prologue
Early in the day I put 1 cup dried Great Northern Beans (they were the only dried beans I happened to have) in a large saucepan, covered them with water, and brought it to a boil over high heat. Then I got the newspaper and settled down. About 30 minutes later I remembered the beans and ran to the kitchen in time to hear the sizzle of the last of the water evaporating. Fortunately, I caught them before they started to burn, so I refilled the pot and put them back on the stove. This time with low heat. I let them cook for another hour or so and when some were tender and others were still al dente I removed the pot from the heat. You can skip this step if you want to used canned beans.
Act One:  Saute
For the soup, I put my pot on the stove and turned the heat to medium. I tossed in the onions, celery, and red pepper with a splatter of olive oil.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper, tasting as you go. I let them soften and then added the garlic
and stirred it into the mixture for a minute or so. Next came the diced potato and carrot. I scraped the bottom of the pan to include all the good stuff that sticks to the bottom. When everything looked good I poured in the can of tomatoes and the juice and added the bay leaf. I let that cook together a couple of minutes.
Act Two: Simmer
I stirred in the liquid from the cooked beans. I added the green beans and liquid, half the zucchini, the peas and stirred occasionally until zucchini softened, about 10 minutes. Next came the broth, the pasta—I used small shell
macaroni— and half the parsley and let it simmer about 5–8 minutes.  Finally came the cooked beans, the leftover liquid, and the last of the zucchini. And just for fun I threw in a handful of alphabet pasta. The whole pot continued to simmer until the pasta was ready and the last of the zucchini still had a little crunch to it.

Epilogue: Serve

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining parsley, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with grated Parmesan, freshly ground pepper, and my personal favorite, Tabasco sauce. Garnish with crunchy garlic seasoned croutons.

The Players

1 cup dried Great Northern beans
2 T olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced and diced somewhat chunky
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small russet potato, medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 medium bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
15 oz can green beans
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup small shell macaroni and 1/2 C alphabet pasta
1/2 C finely chopped Italian parsley (about 1/2 bunch)
Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for garnish
Garlic Seasoned Homemade Croutons
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January 31, 2010 Posted by | Soup | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NHS Band Teacher Appreciation Salad

Janz Salad Basics

  • Green Leafy Stuff
  • Romaine
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Italian Parsley
  • Bright Stuff
    • Red Pepper
    • Purple Onion
    • Red Cabbage
    • Strawberries
  • Other Stuff
    • Mushrooms
    • Feta Cheese
    • Hard Cheese Mix (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)
  • Garnishes
    • Almonds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Homemade Croutons

    To Assemble:

    1. Tear all green leafy stuff (lettuce, cilantro, parsley) put in a salad bowl.
    2. Slice cabbage, dice pepper, slice mushrooms and strawberries and crumbled Feta cheese into the salad.
    3. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds & slivered almonds.
    4. Break thick dry toasted seasoned French bread into bite-size croutons.
    5. Drizzle with with vinaigrette and toss.

    Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

    1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    2. Balsamic Vinegar
    3. Honey Mustard
    4. Honey
    5. Janz Seasoning Blend
    6. Pepper
    7. Tabasco

    This is one variation of Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette. I use the small jar in the photo to mix my dressings.

    • Start with about an inch of extra virgin olive oil
    • An inch of balsamic vinegar
    • A generous squeeze of honey mustard. Maybe a couple of teaspoons…
    • More honey, probably a tablespoon or so.
    • Add your favorite herbs, basil, oregano, garlic… ground herbs mix best
    • A splash of Tabasco

    Put the lid on tight and shake well. I always hold it inside the sink just in case I have a mismatched lid and it leaks. I’d rather not sling oil all over my clothes, it never happens, unless I’m dressed for work and don’t have time to change!

    As to “your favorite herbs…” I’ve come up with my own blend of favorites that I call Janz Seasoning Blend. This is something I mix up every few months and use it in almost everything. It started out as equal parts of ground basil, oregano and garlic powder and now the ingredient list is as more or less follows: basil oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, onion powder, garlic powder, and marjoram. I usually use dried herbs and when I get it mixed and it smells right, I grind it into a very fine powder. I have a clean coffee grinder I use just for grinding herbs.

    The fine powder seems to readily dissolve into a salad dressing. I also use it as seasoning for croutons. Before I came up with this seasoning concoction, I flavored homemade vinaigrette with basil, oregano, thyme… whatever herbs seemed to be right at the time. Let your taste buds be your guide if you don’t have a favorite herb blend. Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated for your next salad.

    May 20, 2008 Posted by | Salad | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

       

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