I have a confession: I like simple recipes. I like dishes that come together easily and without fuss. I like food that tastes like the essence of itself: fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese. I like food that is delicious without trying too hard. And I like recipes that are quickly made not because you ran around the kitchen like a banshee for 30 minutes but because the recipe is simple and straightforward enough that in less that an hour you can chop your vegetables, saute your onions, and simmer your soup peacefully all while nursing a cup of coffee.
Of course I cook so that I may eat, but I often cook as a way of slowing down. With a to-do list that never ends and a racing mind, I need a way to slow everything down so that I may regain a sense of balance and peace. For this reason, I make many pots of soup and stew. While the soup simmers, so do my thoughts. After a cooking session like this, I not only have lunch for the next day but I am ready to face the unknown challenges that the day will bring.
This recipe for White Bean Minestrone is among my favorite soup recipes. It is a simple recipe, but it is delicious, filling, and nutritious. I found it long ago in a magazine, and I have made it many times since. My only regret is that I did not make a note of that magazine source! Last Sunday I found myself fortunate enough to have all the ingredients on hand, so I made the soup in the morning before heading out for my 80-minute run (I'm training for a half-marathon). When I came back for lunch, I sauteed some vegetarian breakfast soysage to add to my soup and added a big slice of sourdough bread to dip in my soup. Perfect!
White Bean Minestrone
Makes 5 servings
1 large onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 large carrots, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced widthwise into "half moons"
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red potatoes, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes with basil and garlic
1 14.5-oz. can of white beans (cannellini beans or Great Northern beans are good choices), drained and rinsed
4 c. vegetable broth (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the oil and saute for about 4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
2) Add the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper to the saucepan. Cover and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Try not to overcook the potatoes so that they don't become mushy.
3) Taste the soup (carefully because it's hot!) and add salt and/or pepper to taste. You can also add additional seasonings such as a bit of dried basil if you like. Eat with some good bread to sop up the broth!