and a great deal else in a minute (famous last words). For now, the recipes for an omnium-gatherum vegetable soup and a freezer friendly pesto as promised to everyone at MaineFare!
Incipient minestrone, partly gathered from my garden but not all of it because I don’t grow kale, potatoes, shell beans or carrots.
SEPTEMBER SUNSHINE MINESTRONE (aka) Harvest Vegetable Soup
This is a very general guideline; as long as you start with the flavored broth, include both starchy and delicate vegetables and use enough of them to make the soup hearty without turning it into stew, you’re in business.
Classic recipes include pasta or rice and I used to too. But now I don’t, because flexibility trumps the tiny gain in convenience you get from freezing the soup “complete.” There’s usually leftover cooked pasta or rice lying around in the fridge and when there isn’t we just use more good bread – French or Italian, generally – which IS always lying around and may be the most delicious choice anyway.
For about 12 main dish ( large ) servings:
1/3 pound lean salt pork or fatty bacon, cut in 1 inch chunks
3 large cloves garlic
½ loosely-piled cup flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large onion, cut in small dice
3 quarts water – quality matters. Use filtered if your tap is chlorinated
3-4 cups root vegetables, cut in roughly ¾ inch chunks. Carrots and potatoes mostly, some parsnip and/or turnip if you like but not too much as both of these are rather aggressive.
2 cups fresh shell beans
½ cup celery in medium slices. Not thin. Not chunks.
2 cups firm summer squash, crookneck or small zucchini, cut in roughly ½ inch slices . Halve the squash the long way first if they’re more than about an inch thick.
1 ½ cups snap beans ( Romanos are lovely if you can find them) cut in 1 inch lengths.
3 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
About 3 cups chopped kale or savoy cabbage
A good sized handful each chopped Italian parsley and basil
1. Chop pork, garlic and the half-cup parsley until it looks like hamburger – the processor is fastest ( if you don’t have to wash it by hand).
2. Put the olive oil in a heavy kettle over low heat, add the pork mixture and lemon rind and cook, stirring, until most of the pork fat is released. Add the onion and keep cooking until it is wilted and starting to turn gold.
3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Put in the root vegetables and shell beans, adjust the heat so the liquid just simmers and cook until the vegetables are about half done – no longer crisp but still somewhat tooth-resistant, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Add celery, squash, snap beans and tomatoes and cook until the roots are tender and the snap beans are al dente, about 20 minutes more.
5. Now the kale and cooking until it’s tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the herbs. Let them wilt, then taste and adjust the salt.
6. Serve with pesto – your own, pistachio (scroll down to find it) or Toasted Almond (below), a better choice for freezing. Freshly grated Parmesan is traditional but if you have good local hard cheese why not experiment? You can also skip the cheese entirely or switch it 180 for an entirely new taste treat. Sprinkle some small chunks of young mozzarella over the hot soup as soon as you ladle it into the bowls. It should be somewhere between soft and melted when everyone starts eating.
Note: this produces a soup that’s just barely done, on the theory that it is going to be frozen, which softens things, then reheated, which softens them some more. If you’re planning to eat it right away, cook until the kale is almost falling apart before you add the herbs.
TOASTED ALMOND PESTO
As usual, quantities are just guidelines. Even more than usual, actually, given the difficulty of measuring fresh leaves and the enormous variability of fresh herbs. The goal is to have a fairly even mixture of almond and parsley flavors, with a strong accent of basil and a mild accent of garlic.
To make lots of this for freezing, make multiple batches; the processor heats up the pesto if you ask it to grind too much. The multiples go very fast since you don’t have to wash the processor between them.
For a scant cup, about 8 servings depending on what you’re doing with it:
1/3 cup toasted almonds. (see note about skins)
2 medium sized cloves of garlic – use large if it’s hardneck.
1/3 cup olive oil
2 loosely packed cups chopped Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems.
1 loosely packed cup basil leaves
2 or 3 leaves of sorrel or a squeeze of lemon
pinch of salt
1. Put almonds and garlic in a processor and grind, scraping down the sides from time to time, until you have fine meal. Add about a third of the oil and a teaspoon of water and grind again until you have a paste – it won’t be smooth, but it will be cohesive.
2. Add the herbs (lemon juice) and salt and about a tablespoon of water. Grind to puree. Add the remaining oil and puree again. The pesto should have the texture of thick mayonnaise. If it’s still too solid, add water in very small amounts until it’s right. The more water you add, the more beautiful the color will be. Try not to get too carried away.
Note: The most delicious way to make this is to toast the almonds in their skins; dump them into boiling water; simmer for about 3 minutes, then leave them in the hot water while you work with small batches at a time, pinching the skins off. The boiling not only loosens the skins but also softens the nuts so they grind to a smoother paste. This is not fast work.
In theory, you could buy blanched almonds, toast them, then just give them a brief swim to soften, but blanched almonds – including those hotsy totsy Marcona almonds – don’t taste as good as almonds in the skins. Must be something about the industrial blanching process. I just use the toasted almonds and leave it at that. (If you soften the almonds in their skins and then try to grind them without peeling, the skins don’t grind smoothly with the nuts).