Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soup time: Try this proven winner

Keep this recipe in your file and make it often! It combines good taste with a great nutritional profile, which is just what we healthy foodies love to eat (and to cook). Note that this is a vegetarian soup, and if you omit a sprinkling of Parmesan at table, it's also vegan.

(Serves 6-8)

For the soup:
1 1/2 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed 
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 14-ounce can, with liquid
2 cups shredded savoy or green cabbage
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium-size zucchini, scrubbed and diced
2 medium-size turnips, peeled and diced (optional)
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and broken into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups), blanched for five minutes and set aside
1/2 cup soup pasta, such as macaroni or small shells
Freshly ground pepper

For the pesto: (NOTE: You also can use prepared pesto)
2 large garlic cloves, halved, green shoots removed
Salt to taste
2 cups, tightly packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan for sprinkling

1.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, and add chopped onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the leeks and garlic. Stir together for a few minutes, and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and the mixture is fragrant, five to 10 minutes. Stir this mixture into a large soup pot, add the beans and all of the remaining vegetables except the green beans, and bring back to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
2. While the soup is simmering, blanch the green beans for five minutes in salted boiling water. Transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain and set aside.
3. To make the pesto, mash the garlic with a generous pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Remove it and set aside. Grind the basil to a paste in the mortar, a handful at a time, then add the garlic back in and mix together well. Work in the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, then stir in the cheese.
4. Add the pasta to the simmering soup about 10 minutes before serving, and cook until al dente. Add pepper, taste and adjust salt. Stir the blanched green beans into the soup and heat through. Serve, adding a spoonful of pesto to each bowl for guests to stir in. Pass additional Parmesan for sprinkling.

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