By Steph Farrar
It's New Year's Eve and instead of prepping for a night out with my husband after playing a sold-out show in Vegas, I'm home talking about soup. 37 weeks pregnant and not allowed to fly, talking about soup.
I am trying my hardest not to complain, but I've already done so in the first sentence of this post. So instead of sulking through this gorgeous day in L.A. I'm going to host a few friends and kids at our new house, pretend to get drunk and eat as much as I can stuff into my already full torso. The main benefit of pregnancy is the absolute lack of calorie-counting (not that I've ever been into calorie-counting) coupled with that whole, "growing a human" thing. But I must admit, at this point in my ten-month commitment of hosting an adorable parasite, it's extremely difficult to get comfortable… with anything.
But I can get down with this:
The great thing about soup is ease. I can't stay on my feet too long at this point, so throwing things in a pot and allowing heat to do the work is exactly the kind of cooking I've been into. I've yet to post from my new kitchen and all its perfect light, but that's what 2014 is for! So enjoy this last post from Pearlie's Malibu kitchen.
I recently made this Minestrone for my friend Linda's blog Urban Harvestand can't wait to see the edit of a day we spent together in my kitchen around the new house with the family, barefoot and very pregnant. I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you first though. Since it's so cold in Los Angeles, I know you must be craving soup, to accompany your evening, cuddled up by the fire with a hot-toddy and wool blanket while watching Groundhog Day. This Minestrone will get you through those 75 degree winter days in the grueling West Coast city.
You can easily make this soup vegetarian by eliminating the pancetta and throwing in some additional salt. Or substitute the pancetta for an alternate protein, if somehow you don't like pancetta, or like Linda, you're allergic to pork. The weight of the white beans provides a depth that can handle this massive blend of vegetables and broth. As noted in the recipe, I suggest blending half the white beans to thicken the soup and keep the remaining beans for texture. You can overnight soak dry beans, quick soak them, or use canned beans as well. I prefer the overnight soak, because I like making things more difficult for myself.
Whatever you do, make sure you toast some bread, spread soft butter on said bread, and shave parmesan over this bowl of winter heaven.
And most importantly have a safe, super fun, mind-alterting, hangover-inducing HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!
White Bean and Pancetta Minestrone
adapted from Epicurious
Makes about 10 cups, serving 6-8
1/2 lb (1 1/4 cups) dried white beans like Great Northern, picked over, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt 1/4 - 1/2 lb pancetta or lean sliced bacon, chopped
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, 1/2 inch dice
2 ribs celery, 1/2 inch dice
2 medium zucchini, 1/2 inch dice
1/4 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb boiling potatoes
4 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
6 cups kale, rinsed, drained, stems discarded, leaves chopped
1 28 oz. can San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes
4 1/2 cups low salt chicken broth
1-2 bay leaves
Freshly grated parmesan, lightly toasted baguette or loaf
Place white beans in large bowl and cover with water by two inches, let soak overnight, or quick soak, or use two cans beans.
Skip this step with canned beans. Drain and rinse white beans. In a saucepan, cover beans with water by two inches, adding more if necessary and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, uncovered and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft. Add salt and simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered.
In a large pot or heavy kettle cook the pancetta in oil over medium heat until crisp and golden. Add the onion, stir, cook until softened. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring for 4-5 minutes. Add the zucchini, green beans and potatoes, peeled and cut into a 3/4 inch dice, cook, stirring for 4-5 minutes. Add cabbage and kale, cook, stirring until cabbage has wilted. Add the broth and hand crush tomatoes over the mixture directly into the kettle. Be careful, they will explode! Do not add additional tomato sauce from can. The crushed tomatoes should be enough acid, flavor and color. Add bay leaves. Simmer the soup, covered, for at least 1 hour.
Drain the beans, but reserve the liquid. In a food processor or blender puree half the beans with 1 cup of the reserved liquid, and add puree to soup, along with remaining white beans. Simmer the soup for another 15-20 minutes uncovered. Add a little renaming liquid or broth if it needs to be thinned out. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves.
Serve soup with parmesan, toast and cut dried sausages if desired.
Soup can be made 3 days in advanced, covered and chilled. Will also freeze for 3 months.