“And as I surveyed the clutter of his study, I was pleased to see that he was a man after my own heart. All of his money appeared to have been spent on either books or shelves to hold them” ~ Ross King, Ex-Libris
Last week, I spent some time meeting with a co-worker. Just we were about to end our video session, she said, “I've always wanted to ask about the wall of books in the background! Do you have any favorites?”
And thus began the happiest of interludes, all about cookbooks
I love new cookbooks, admittedly, to a fault. It's always fun when they arrive, a new adventure. I've also learned to approach the grocery check-out line with caution. I'm forever coming home with pretty magazines filled with more recipes than I'll ever have time to make.
But it's the older cookbooks that hold a special place in my heart. There's something about them, which I love even more. Cook only from books published in the last three years? You'll have a handle on today's food trends. Cook from books from the 1950s, the 1970s, and even ten years ago? You'll find your cooking voice.
There's a small lending library, of sorts, in the package room of our building.
A while ago, a couple who was moving out, gifted a box of older cookbooks that they no longer needed. Among them, Ada Boni's The Talisman Italian Cookbook, West Coast Cookbook by Helen Brown, and more than a few from Moosewood. I loved some of them so much, I ordered copies for myself, and think I'll be cooking from them for years to come
Paging through, I found a recipe for veggie soup. Between the fridge and the freezer, I turned up a nice variety of veggies, herbs, and even a parmesan rind. Plenty to work with.
Keep in mind, I made this soup for the first time on a day I didn't really feel like cooking. I only want to reap the benefits of a big homemade bowl for lunch, without fighting the crowd at Potbelly's. I also wanted to do as little as humanly possible to get it.
So around 10:00 in the morning, I started a mirepoix. Then dumped the rest of the ingredients into my stockpot, put a lid on it, and let the whole thing simmer on the stovetop for a couple of hours, hoping for the best
After an hour, the smell of herbs, garlic, and onions started creeping out of the kitchen and into my office. I was pretty sure I was onto something good. A quick taste made me a believer.
It feels a bit strange, calling it a “minestra.” The Italian word for a mixed vegetable sort of soup, think minestrone, and it sounds way more intriguing this way, right?!
I skipped the pasta here, although you could add it or some brown rice or shredded chicken to fill it out. I go through periods of eating when a salad just doesn't hit the spot; meals like this pot of goodness serve as a nice alternative to pack in the veggies. Especially when showered with a thin veil of parmesan and a kiss of herbs
It tastes better the next day
Friends, we have the incredible privilege of taking care of one another. Especially during these strange and unsettling times. So here is my warm and brothy gift to everyone out there looking for a bit of calm and comfort.
It could easily have been warm and wobbly; choose what feels best for you.
Total active prep time was under twenty minutes; the rest is just waiting and anticipating.
~ Adapted from Moosewood
Comforting Veggie Minestra
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (or butter)
- 8 carrots, sliced
- 4 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes, divided
- 1 Tbsp dried thyme, divided
- 1 tsp dried marjoram, divided
- 1 tsp dried basil, divided
- 1 tsp dill, divided
- salt + pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups chopped cabbage
- 2 cups frozen cut green beans (about 8 oz)
- 2 cups frozen peas (about 8 oz)
- 1 cup frozen corn (about 5 oz)
- 1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, not drained
- 4 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
- 2 - 3 cups V8 juice
- pinch of red pepper flakes, optional, but adds a nice kick
- 1 bay leaf
- parmesan rind, optional, but nice to add if you have one
- In a stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the oil (or butter).
- Add the carrots, onion, celery, green pepper, 2 tsp each of the parsley, and thyme, ½ tsp each of the marjoram, basil, and dill. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Saute until the veggies are crisp-tender.
- Add garlic. Cook and stir a minute or two.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients, Parmesan rind, and the rest of the herbs. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Taste and adjust seasonings.