Saturday, July 10, 2010

Springtime Minestrone

Submitted by Michelle

Look what I have growing in my garden! Isn't she splendid? I bought a mixed seed packet that was supposed to contain all kinds of flowers that would attract birds but mostly it seems I have sunflowers, which is quite alright with me. They are such a happy flower and great for cutting and putting in vases around the house to remind me that though it is 110 degrees outside, good things can come from all the heat and sun.

With the mercury rising I've been craving lighter foods that won't weigh me down. I've also been trying to watch my caloric intake in an attempt to lighten up on the scale. I found that Lance Armstrong's website is an excellent resource for calorie counting whether you want to lighten or bulk up. It features a section called My Plate which is essentially an electronic food diary. I love it! And it shows all the important nutritional values of foods and helps me monitor if I am consuming enough of the right stuff.

When I am paying attention to what I'm consuming, I usually try to go for vegetarian options at most or all of my meals. I have several vegetarian cookbooks that I love, but one that I refer to quite often is The Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. The Moosewood restaurant is in Ithaca, New York and my cousin Kathy attended college in Ithaca so I have actually had the opportunity to eat there! Kathy also turned me on to this cookbook. It features vegetarian recipes for soups, salads and other sides. Springtime Minestrone comes from this cookbook.

Technically, it isn't Springtime in the desert so maybe I should re-name my soup Summertime Minestrone or even, Anytime Minestrone, because you really can make it any season of the year. It is chock full of healthy stuff.
Clockwise from left to right: Cannellini beans, white onion, oregano, fennel, garlic, zucchini, celery, spinach.

The recipe also calls for 2 chopped leeks. Leeks are a super mild form of an onion. Because they tend to contain a lot of sand, I usually thinly slice them and put them in a big bowl of water so all the sand can drain to the bottom.
Afterward they look like this:
The recipe also calls for vegetable stock. I made my own but you could certainly buy vegetable stock or even use chicken stock. The only thing I wouldn't do is substitute the water for the stock. Because this is quite a brothy soup, you are going to want lots of flavor in the broth.

Everything cooks in stages in 1 pot and the soup easily comes together in about 30 minutes.
And, with only 138 calories in each serving, I could afford to sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of mine!
Spring Minestrone

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 leeks, washed and chopped (white and tender green parts only)
2 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (I used 1/2 teaspoon because I LOVE oregano)
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable stock
1 small zucchini, cubed (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini or other white beans (15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
2 cups shredded greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach or beet greens
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas (optional)
1 cup cut asparagus (2-inch pieces) (optional)
a splash of fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine oil, onions and garlic in a nonreactive soup pot and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Stir in the leeks and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the celery, oregano, fennel, salt and pepper and continue to saute for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the zucchini, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the white beans and return to a gentle simmer. Stir in the greens and, if using, the peas and/or asparagus and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add the lemon juice or vinegar.

Top each serving with Parmesan, if you wish, and serve immediately, while the greens are at their best and brightest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks great! Great post Michelle! From Linda