Soup, as this week’s A la Carte acknowledges, is a cup of cheer that wards off winter’s chill.
And it isn’t just the substance, itself. The very idea of soup on the stove is a tonic to the soul. Months before this week’s food-section story sang the praises of soup, I hummed a happy little tune each time my freezer gained another quart: ham and bean with collard greens, French onion, turkey-vegetable, chili and our mainstay minestrone.
I conclude every year’s growing season with a batch of minestrone from whichever summer vegetables can be gleaned from the garden. So mine almost always contains zucchini, eggplant, green beans and fresh tomatoes, along with carrot, celery, onion and garlic.
I typically freeze that basic format without pasta or canned beans, which can be added to the defrosted and reheated product according to which are close at hand. Topped with a little of our homemade pesto, also from the freezer, the dish satisfies no matter the season.
Although this blog has mentioned homemade minestrone a half-dozen times, I’ve never posted an actual recipe. This one, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, is just right for winter’s reliance on pantry-staple veggies, rather than summer’s bounty.
Hearty Minestrone With Celery and Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced celery plus 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 large garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup orzo or other small pasta
1 can (15 ounces) Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed
1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wide shallow soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, celery seed and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, for about 10 minutes.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, uncovered, until tender, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, half the celery leaves and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, for 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with remaining celery leaves and a light dusting of cheese, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.