It's soup season, isn't it? As if the double-digit-subzero-temperatures, statewide shutdown of schools on account of severe weather, and tomorrow's anticipated blizzard conditions weren't enough to get ye to yer stock pot, the food internets are abuzz with soup recipes like it's going out of style. Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks each featured two recipes in the last couple weeks, all of which I can't wait to try: Miso Tahini, Persian Yogurt, Chicken Phở, and Brothy Kale and White Bean Soup. I will probably make all of those in the next few weeks. If you beat me to any of them, let me know how it goes.
Or instead, you could make this Minestronish Soup, which I made with my Mambo Italiano class on Sunday. It's nothing new or wild, but I did some experimentation before sharing it with my class (as you do), and I believe I achieved the perfect acid-zip-savory balance with this one. Its strengths: the inclusion of fresh basil as well as dried herbs to give it a couple layers of herbaceous-ness; the brightness of lemon zest, kick of red pepper, and subtle sweetness of the winter squash to smooth out the parmesan's saltiness. I give it an unbiased 5 Stars.
But why Minestronish and not Minestrone?! Well, I'm no purist, you see. And I don't want someone to google "Minestrone" and end up here to find something so nontraditional. Delicata squash and parsnips aren't your typical minestrone stars. Also, I ditched the pasta. We don't need no stinkin' pasta. We've got legumes! So go chop some veggies and warm up with a cuppa.
P.S. Yes, that is some chicken in the soup. I added some roasted chicken from Lucia's to this soup's encore performance. It gets better on days 2 and 3, with or without chicken.
P.P.S. I used a can of kidney beans plus a cup of cooked chickpeas I had in my refrigerator.
Yield: 6 generous servings
Some notes: Don't chop the veggies too small, a la mire poix. Let the larger pieces sweat for a while over low heat and they'll add a good amount of flavor while providing you a heartier, chunkier soup at the end.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 large carrot or parsnip, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil*
Zest of 1 lemon*
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 delicata squash, seeds and membranes removed, chopped as finely as you can bother (no larger than ½” pieces - hey, guess what! no need to peel!) (could also substitute 2 cups peeled, cubed butternut or other winter squash)
1-2 large cans/jars of diced, crushed or whole tomatoes (depending on how tomatoey you like it; I go big myself)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 ½ cups cooked kidney, cannellini, borlotti, or garbanzo beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
¼ - ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper (start by setting aside ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper – we can always add more later)
* Could substitute Golden Fig Dynamite Herbs for both basil and lemon zest. 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Over medium heat, preheat a large soup pot for minute or two. Add olive oil and turn pan so that oil coats entire bottom. Once olive oil is shiny, add onion, celery, and carrot or parsnip and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, dried herbs, lemon zest, freshly ground pepper, red pepper flakes (if using), and another pinch of salt and cook for 1 minute. Add squash and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, and 2 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the soup boils. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. If soup seems too thick, add remaining 1 cup of water. Add beans and continue to cook until beans are warmed through and vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!