Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Minestrone Madness

In keeping with my love of all things fall, I am so excited to have re-entered soup weather! Soup is one of my favorite things and the flavor combinations are endless. As I write this post, a heavy rain is pouring down outside, the sky is dark at merely 4pm and my house is filled with the warm, slurpy, fragrant happiness of soup. This hearty minestrone is fairly simple, the most difficult facet being found in the ingredient list. I live in a very small town and can't always lay my hands on swiss chard. I have attempted to make the soup without the chard, but the result is definitely lacking in flavor. So on a recent sprint through Kroger (doesn't every mom 'sprint' through the grocery store? who has time to meander?) I spotted some swiss chard and quickly snatched up the best looking bunch I could find. In retrospect, I should have bought more, doubled the recipe and filled my deep freeze for later...cause I know that swiss chard won't be there next time. Live and learn. 

Minestrone Soup
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped
2-3 large leaves of swiss chard, washed and chopped
3 large carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained, rinsed and 1/2 of them mashed
5-6 cans chicken broth (about 10 cups)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. dried parsley
2 Tbs. dried basil
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt 
1//2 cup orzo

In the bottom of a large, heavy stock pot, brown chopped bacon in olive oil. While the bacon is cooking, place onion, carrots and celery in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside. On a cutting board, coarsely chop the cabbage and swiss chard. I have attempted placing the cabbage and chard in the food processor, but the result is not the same - impossible to obtain a coarse enough chop as the food processor is best for fine chopping and the soup has a much better flavor and texture when the cabbage and chard are coarsely chopped. When the bacon pieces are crispy and brown, stir in all of the vegetables - onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cabbage and swiss chard - as well as all of the seasonings - parsley, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the veggies become tender. Then add the coarsely chopped whole tomatoes, the pinto beans and the chicken broth. Stir well and bring to a simmer, then add the orzo and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes - serve it up piping hot with some panini sandwiches or crusty bread - Enjoy!