Recipe: MINESTRONE

Minestrone Traces 3

I love zines, food zines and literary zines especially.  It’s reassuring that in a day and age when newspapers and magazines are rapidly disappearing these exciting self-published journals are popping up more and more on the shelves of independent bookstores.  The combination of unique visual style and bold personal writing in these publications is vibrant and inspiring.  This weekend I was browsing the shelves of McNally Jackson, a bookstore in Nolita and picked up the new food zine GATHER JOURNAL.  It is their second ever issue, the Fall/Winter issue.  I was immediately struck by the bold photography on the cover: a dish rag that looks like it was attacked by a roast, and a crushed head of garlic on a black background.

gather 3

Inside, the evocative and mysterious photography continued on page after luscious page, accompanied by recipes and short anecdotes, like a haiku on leeks, how Roquefort was discovered in a cave in France circa 79 AD, or even music lyrics introducing smoke and ash in cooking.

Help me
I think I’m falling
In love too fast
It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
Cause I’ve seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash
-Joni Mitchell

Gotta love Joni!  The journal is filled with these sweet poetic surprises including a photo essay on nature morte, using food of course.

Nature Morte 3

The theme that binds this issue is “traces”; think of tracks, memories, what has been.  Brilliant.  I love the fonts and clean black and white layout.  As unique as the photography is, the recipes all seem easy to accomplish at home.  The seemingly steep price tag of $19.99, which I understand is what it takes to get these publications out there, is definitely worth it.  It’s like owning a piece of art, a cookbook and sharing time with some really cool, interesting friends who teach you things you actually want to know… all rolled in one!

After reading the journal cover to cover and feeling like I had gone to a very cool Brooklyn dinner party it was time to cook something.  I took a look at what I had in the pantry, checked out the below freezing temperature outside and decided on one of the more humble recipes, a MINESTRONE.  I followed a lot of the recipe, but made it vegetarian by omitting the pancetta.  I went to a fabulous birthday party for a Brazilian friend on Friday night, which involved eating lamb sliders, marinated steak, pork shoulder and a Latin take on pasta Bolognese.  It was more meat than I have consumed in months!  I was literally sweating it out of my pores the next day in yoga.  I know eating meat and doing yoga is practically an oxymoron, but it’s one of those little quirks in my make up that I think I’m going to hang on to.  My passion and  commitment to both food and yoga are too huge!   But, I will definitely be taking a little break from meat for this week.

MINESTRONE (adapted from Kasey Fleisher Hickey’s recipe in GATHER JOURNAL)
I love making vegetarian soups and stews because they taste great the next day and are easy to freeze for those days when you are on the run and have no time to cook, but want something healthy.    I took out the pancetta from the original recipe, so I was a bit more liberal with the Parmigiano and I used garbanzo beans instead of cannellini because that’s what I happened to have at home.  I forgot to brown the tomato paste, like driving and texting, cooking and texting doesn’t always work out.  Yet, despite my distraction, the soup turned out wonderfully, full of vibrant flavors and overflowing with kale and beautiful veggies.

Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks clery, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium Yukon Gold potato peeled and thinly sliced
2 quarts water
1 (15 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, broken up
¼ lb green beans, halved
A (2 inch) piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
15 oz cooked cannellini or garbanzo beans (can be fresh or canned)
1 bunch Tuscan kale, chopped
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste
grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish  (optional)

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt.  Stir occasionally until browned about 15-20 minutes.  Push vegetables to the side and add tomato paste, stirring until it darkens, about 2 minutes.  Add the potatoes, stir.  Add water, tomatoes and their juice, green beans and cheese rind and another pinch of salt.

Bring soup to a simmer and cook partially covered, 1 hour.  Stir in cannellini or garbanzo beans, kale, parsley and simmer partially covered 20 minutes longer.  Add salt to taste and serve drizzled with olive oil and if you have it, some grated Parmigiano.