Jen’s Minestrone

Minestrone Soup (1)

There is nothing like cooking. Sure, there’s gardening, but it’s winter. There’s Yoga too, and walking on the beach, noodling with your dog, or giggling with a girlfriend. All of this can restore you to yourself. But there is nothing quite like cooking to really take you home.

So when we all went for a hike and a swim on New Year’s Day, and my sister Jen stayed home to prepare this minestrone soup, I watched her do something I love to do and saw in her doing, the beauty of that ritual.

Jen turned to Food52 for inspiration, adapting (and I believe improving) this recipe. It’s more feast than soup – hearty enough to satisfy, light enough to make a happy belly and start your new year healthy.

Jen skipped the pesto, serving it simply with chopped parsley, parmesan and pepitas (with a lot of help from Mama). It was perfect like that, but I add the recipe for pesto in case you want that extra flavor punch.

minestrone soup cu

Smoky Minestrone Soup, adapted from Food 52
Serves 6-8

3 T ghee
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 t chipotle powder
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 c purple cabbage, sliced and
4 c vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1 & 1/2 c of cooked “Orca” beans (or, 1  15 oz. can of organic cooked beans)
3 c tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (or 1 28 oz. can of peeled tomatoes, with juice)
Pink salt or sea salt, & fresh cracked pepper
1 c spinach, chopped fine
2 c high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini, optional

Garnish:
Aged balsamic vinegar
Pine nuts
Pesto*
Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons of the ghee in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, garlic and leek. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened. Stir in chipotle and let sauté one minute before adding the chopped carrot, celery, zucchini, cabbage and stir around for a minute or two. Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. Add a few generous pinches of salt (be judicious if your stock is salted already), and a grind of two of pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and continue to cook over a simmer about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Serve garnished with a spoonful of the pesto, a few drops of the aged balsamic, a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkling of pine nuts and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Be generous here – this is where the soup goes from wholesome to holy.

*Parsley or Basil Pesto

cup loosely packed basil or parsley
tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
cloves garlic, peeled
tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
tablespoon olive oil

Chop the basil or parsley by hand until it’s very fine, reducing it down to 1/4 cup.

Chop the garlic and mash the pine nuts until fine.  Incorporate the ingredients in a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Use as a garnish for the minestrone.

* You can make this vegan by replacing the ghee with coconut oil, the pasta with a vegan one, and the parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast.

minestrone soup

New Year Healthy: This soup is great for your New Year’s wellness plan. With a rich spectrum of vegetables, parsley, and beans, it is low in fat, but high in macro/micro nutrients and fiber. Parmesan cheese is a dry, aged cheese so while  adding body to the soup, it is low in fat, and high in digestive enzymes. Chipotle and garlic not only ramp up flavor, they are helpful for winter’s sometimes sluggish digestion. Carrots give the sweet taste that keeps us grounded in Vata season while celery adds the bitter taste that helps purify.

What are your new year plans for self care, self love and self nourishment?