Last Minute Minestrone

by Jennifer

I made this soup after realizing I had cranberry beans and a parmesan rind in the freezer, tomatoes on the counter, fresh basil growing in a pot on the back deck, and not a lot of time to make dinner.  And it was good!  Substitute the beans with your favorite (cannellini would be good), if you don’t happen to have cooked cranberry beans lurking in your freezer, too.  Parmesan rinds are a good way to add “umami” to a soup, especially a meatless one.  I served it with Challah, and arugula tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-large carrots, chopped into uniformly-sized pieces
  • 1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous, preferably whole wheat
  • 3 cups cooked beans
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (I used Not – Chicken Soup I’d made earlier in the week)
  • parmesan rind
  • 2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes (slice tomatoes in half, squeeze out seeds, chop)
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add celery and carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Stir in Israeli couscous and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add beans, broth and parmesan rind;  bring soup to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, basil and pepper.  Serve with freshly grated cheese on top.

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Farro Minestrone with Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Chestnuts; Sage Foccacia

By Jennifer

This is an adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe;  among other things, the original recipe called for pancetta and I pretty much stopped eating meat and poultry 4 years ago, and discovered around the same time that you could substitute a parmesan rind for pancetta or bacon in soup recipes, to sort of replicate that smoky, rich flavor.  And after cooking, the hot, gooey rind is not only edible, but delicious!  The original recipe also called for 1 cup of chopped butternut squash, and I couldn’t figure out what I would do with the remaining squash, so I’ve doubled it;  freeze half for another meal.

Serves 4 adults (without doubling, or with freezing half for later).

Farro Minestrone with Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Chestnuts

  • 2 cups uncooked farro (also called spelt;  if you can’t find it, use barley)
  • 2 TBS. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth (8 cups)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • parmesan rind
  • 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 lb. brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 2 cups bottled chestnuts, halved
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving time

Place spelt in a medium pot and cover with water by a couple inches;  bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock-pot over medium-high heat;  add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the broth, water, and wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any browned bits.

Add parmesan rind, squash, sprouts, chestnuts and black pepper and bring to a boil;  lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Add the spelt and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Sage Focaccia

I had some leftover sage and  decided to double this recipe, freezing the second bread for another meal.  If you do not have a pizza peel and baking stone, try using two baking sheets, one in the oven, and another, upside down, to slide in the dough.

  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, chopped

Combine the yeast and water in a large bowl;  let sit until foamy.

Add the flour, salt, and 4 TBS olive oil.

If kneading by hand, transfer from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  If using a standing mixer, change to the dough hook and knead on the lowest setting for 10 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth;

let rise until doubled, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Turn out dough on a floured surface and gently knead in the sage leaves.

Roll out dough to a 12” circle;  place on a floured-dusted pizza peel and cover again with the towel and let rise, about 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat a baking stone in your oven, at 400, for a good 30 minutes.

Brush the dough with the remaining 1 TBS olive oil and use your finger-tips to make indentations all over the dough.

Slide the dough onto the baking stone and bake for 20 minutes, until golden.  Use the peel to slide the bread out and cool.

Note:  If serving this for dinner, you may want to go ahead and make two;  my husband ate almost all of one focaccia as an afternoon snack!