Monday night I made Mark's favorite soup. The recipe I use is very fast and easy, especially if you use canned beans. In my mind, then, it's an "easy" meal, saved for a day when I have little time to cook or clean up. But I wasn't so busy on Monday; I put it down only because I couldn't think of anything else, and I had some good chicken stock I needed to use. So with that extra time I made some parmesan garlic toast to go next to it. And since we didn't have a lot of extra stuff to do that night, Mark opened a bottle of good red wine. And the minestrone became -- something special.
The kids finished their dinner, asked to be excused, and ran downstairs to play. That left my husband and me sitting across from each other at table. In the dimmed light it seemed as if the one-pot meal had left the kitchen nearly clean. We poured more wine, nibbled on the garlic toast, and grinned at each other, unable to believe our good luck. Ten years since we got engaged. Evenings like this are rare, and I wouldn't trade anything for where we are now.
I can't promise the same results, but here is my recipe for minestrone soup and also for the parmesan garlic toast.. One fifteen-ounce can of beans may be substituted for the cooked dried beans, but I like it much better if you don't. Kale, chard, or cabbage substitutes well for the turnip greens, but mustard greens or collards don't work very well. I have successfully used diced potato instead of pasta to make the soup gluten-free.
- 1/2 cup dried navy beans
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 cups homemade chicken or beef stock
- 1 - 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 large carrot peeled and sliced
- 2 small zucchinis, sliced
- 1 bunch turnip greens, tough stems removed, cut into shreds
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup dried small elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the beans by your favorite bean-cooking method, e.g., cover with water in a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until tender.
When the beans are nearly done, heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, cabbage, basil, oregano, sugar, and bay leaf. Simmer about 20 minutes. Add the pasta and cook uncovered until al dente, 8-10 minutes more.
Drain the beans only if they're swimming in liquid. Add them and a bit of their liquid to the pot along with the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and parmesan.
Parmesan Garlic Toast
- 8 pita breads
- Olive oil - maybe 1/2 cup
- 3 cloves garlic, more if you like
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or other herb
- About a cup of freshly grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper
Crush garlic in a garlic press and mix with olive oil and herb.
Cut the pita breads in quarters and split the quarters into single layers (so you get eight quarter-rounds out of each pita). Place inside-up on baking sheet, either nonstick or lined with aluminum foil. Brush each bread with olive oil mixture, being sure to get a bit of the pressed garlic on each bread. Sprinkle with salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Top with parmesan cheese. Broil carefully until browned and crispy with melted cheese.
And, of course, serve with your favorite red wine.