Sunday, May 31, 2009
Farmer's Markets around the area have been open for about a month now. But produce in May is usually on the light side. No peaches or cucumbers yet. Strawberries aren't quite here. Tomato plants are just starting to flower.
Spring produce is all about the color green. Peas are choice right now. The English shell peas are such a tasty snack. And everyone loves cracking open the shell to find the spherical sugary treasures inside. Asparagus has pushed its crown straight up through the dirt. But now is the time to snag these veggies because the season is short!
I've been trying to fit in a new recipe here and there from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters. A while back I tried the minestrone and thought it would be a good idea to do the Spring variation when the time was right.
Minestrone is Italian for "big soup". There are countless variations, but the idea is to add lots of different veggies and some beans at different times in order for everything to be cooked properly at the end. Something to note...this recipe refers to the term "soffritto" which means the basic aromatic vegetables in the soup. You may have heard of the French "mirepoix" (usually carrot, onion, and celery).
Here is the Spring Minestrone:
Heat in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat:
1/4 c olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
Cook the soffritto for 15 minutes, or until tender. Add:
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (or 2-3 stalks of green garlic)
5 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
Cook for 5 minutes longer. Add, and bring to a boil:
3 cups water or broth (go for the broth!!)
When boiling, add:
2 small leeks, diced
Simmer 10 minutes, then add:
1 c shell peas (a little over 1 lb in the pod)
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can cannellini beans
More water as necessary
Simmer 5 minutes, then add:
2 c spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
Cook 5 more minutes. Remove the bay leaf. If the soup is not to be eaten right away, cool it down quickly in an ice bath so the asparagus doesn't lose its bright green color.
Serve in bowls, each one garnished with:
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil (soooo good)
1 TB grated Parmesan cheese
In addition, I thought this soup would be great with a big crouton in the middle! It tastes just like spring. The only downside is, with all that work, you might just forget that this is just a really great soup, essentially an appetizer or a light lunch. I'd recommend a little protein along side of it.