Meatless Monday – Minestrone Verde with Spring Vegetables

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This mostly ‘green’ soup is like Spring in a bowl. Dark leafy dino kale, sweet sugar snap peas and cannelini beans are all nestled in a tasty leek infused broth.  Topped with a lemony pistachio pesto, salty shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes, this is one flavor packed bowl.  Did I say Ready in less than 30 Minutes?  I love eating with the seasons when vegetables are at their peak in freshness, nutritional value and flavor. Usually when vegetables are so abundant, they are also the cheapest. For the greatest freshness look for foods that are locally grown and preferably organic.

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Did you know that fruits and vegetables are still  ‘alive’ and continue to breathe after picking through a process called respiration, which leads to a loss of nutrients the longer it takes for them to be transported and sold.  In addition, fruits and vegetables have a higher nutritional value when they are picked ripe, as opposed to picking them before they are ripe and letting them ripen later (for shipping purposes), except for certain crops like tomatoes.  They might get to the right color and ripeness but won’t reach their highest nutritional levels, so buying local is the best bet if you can. Or sometimes, frozen is the best choice since they are picked ripe and frozen right away. (Livestrong)

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I made this minestrone twice this week.  The first time I made it, my husband went back for fourths and my 21 year old son ate all the leftovers.  It was such a disappointment to find the empty container the next morning.  Darn, no free lunch…  So I decided to make it again a few days later for a casual dinner party I hosted for eight women, but this time I doubled the recipe.  I was afraid of overcooking the vegetables while waiting for everyone to arrive and giving them all a chance to have cocktails with the chickens (yes, that is a thing when you have chickens).  So I prepared the soup base, added the cannelini beans and turned the burner off.  Once the soup was only warm and not hot, I added the veggies and let it sit until just before we were ready to eat.  By the time it heated back up, the veggies were the perfect crisp tender.  Of course, the fun part is allowing your guests to ‘decorate’ their own bowls with the delicious pesto, shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes.  The bread can also be toasted ahead of time as it is fine at room temperature.

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This soup gets much of it’s flavor from a good vegetable broth that is poured over sauteed onions, celery and leeks. Italians call this sauteed vegetable mixture soffrito, which is the foundation on which many Italian sauces, and other dishes are built.  Traditional ingredients were lard and finely chopped parsley and onion, but modern cooks substitute olive oil or butter. Garlic, celery, or carrot may be included.  Italian cooks often make a big batch of soffrito and save it to use in various recipes.  Soffrito can be made 3 days ahead. Let it cool; cover and chill, or freeze up to 1 month

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TIPS: Leeks are a delicious addition to soups but can harbor dirt between it’s many layers which will make your soup stock gritty.  The easiest way to clean them is to cut off the stem and the dark green end, then slice in half vertically.  Run each half under running water fanning the layers like a deck of cards to rinse out any dirt.  Then chop into one quarter inch pieces.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM SPRING MINESTRONE VERDE FROM BON APPETIT, MAY 2016

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SPRING MINISTRONE VERDE

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
  • celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetarian broth or water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced in half crosswise
  • ½ bunch small Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shaved Parmesan (optional)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pesto (recipe below)
  • 4 ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread, toasted

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  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks, and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, 6–8 minutes.

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  • Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer

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  • Remove the tough rib from the kale and roughly chop leaves.

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  • Destring snow peas and cut in half

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  • Place slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil and broil until golden brown.  Turn and repeat on the other side.

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  • Add beans and sugar snap peas; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

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  • Add kale and peas and cook until kale is wilted and peas are tender, about 3 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.

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  •  Serve soup, topped with pesto, parmesan and red pepper flakes, with toast and pesto.

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PESTO

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  • 2 tablespoons pistachios (pumpkin seeds or pine nuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

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  • Pulse pistachios in a food processor.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, and ⅓ cup oil in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Add Parmesan, lemon zest, and remaining ⅓ cup oil; season with salt and pepper, if needed.

 

Minestrone Verde with Spring Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

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  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
  • celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetarian broth or water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced in half crosswise
  • ½ bunch small Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Thinly shaved Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
  • Pesto (recipe below)
  • 4 ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread, toasted

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks, and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, 6–8 minutes.
  • Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer
  • Place slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil and broil until golden brown.  Turn and repeat on the other side.
  • Add sugar snap peas; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
  • Add kale, beans, and peas and cook until kale is wilted and peas are tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  •  Serve soup, topped with pesto, parmesan and red pepper flakes, with toast and pesto.

PESTO

  • 2 tablespoons pistachios (pumpkin seeds or pine nuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Pulse pistachios in a food processor.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, and ⅓ cup oil in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Add Parmesan, lemon zest, and remaining ⅓ cup oil; season with salt and pepper, if needed.

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