Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens — or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn’t much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn’t lavish. But it’s what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.)
Since then, I’ve been more inspired to cook lots of “real” food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen’s curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I’ve taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread). After our knock-em-dead New Years Eve, we had plans to go to The Wandering Goose for Southern breakfast + resolution writing, a tradition we’ve kept for years. But when we woke up to a light dusting of snow, neither of us really felt like dealing with a very busy (now) toddler in a very small restaurant — nor were we quite ready to think about goals or resolutions. There was still wrapping paper to clean up and mail to open, and frankly I wanted space and time to really think through mine before sharing them this year. I remember sitting at our table last year with a six week old baby strapped to me, lightly bouncing and, with each bite of breakfast, trying not to drop black eyed peas on his head. There was a bit of a wait for our food, so we ended up sharing a piece of caramel cake and coffee first, and I proceeded to lie my way through each of my goals. And I 100% knew it at the time, too. Was I going to learn how to sew clothes for myself? Yes. Would I get better at baking bread? Absolutely. Write a new book proposal? You betcha. I remember thinking to myself that the entire exercise felt futile and what I really was going to do that year was keep this sleeping baby alive and healthy. And I did. We did. And he’s a little walking, babbling ray of sunshine that loves kiwis and bananas and biscuits and taking showers with his papa. And this year, I’m ready to start thinking about new personal and professional projects that have more to do with me — to make lists that feel genuine and exciting, not just words on paper.
This soup has turned out to be good fuel for that sort of thing — for writing thank you notes and starting the new planner my sister Zoe got me for Christmas. I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit a while back and when I recently dug it out, I discovered it was a spring minestrone with sugar snap peas and fresh peas, so obviously my version is a seasonal departure. I ended up using frozen peas and fresh zucchini instead and it feels like exactly what I want and need to be eating right now: clean, simple, and all about the ingredients themselves. Nothing over the top, festive or fancy. Just a good, wintry soup. And a clean desk to start thinking about those truthful resolutions I’m almost ready to write. Happy New Year, friends.
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Prep time: 45 mins
- Cook time: 15 mins
- Total time: 1 hr
This soup has a few components that can be tackled separately and in advance: the soffrito works as the base and you’ll have quite a bit leftover that you can then freeze and use for soups in the future. As for the pesto, I didn’t have pistachios as the original recipe called for so I used hazelnuts instead. Like most pesto recipes, I treat it as a formula more than anything so use any nuts and greens you like here; it’ll turn out great.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
For Soup / Assembly:
To make the soffrito: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 6-8 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
To make the pesto: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Let cool; crush using a small sauce pan (you want a mix of sizes).
Pulse garlic, basil, parsley and 1/3 cup oil in a food processor until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix with Parmesan, lemon zest, crushed nuts, and remaining 1/3 cup oil; season with salt and pepper.
Soup and assembly: Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-high. Add the thyme and zucchini and cook until tender, about 6 -7 minutes. Add bay leaf and 1 cup soffrito and cook down until fragrant, about 2 minutes (Reserve remaining soffrito for another use; see note below).
Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add peas, kale, beans and cook until kale is wilted and peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Serve soup, topped with pesto, Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
Note on Soffrito: The base can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool, cover and refrigerate (or freeze for up to 1 month).
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
Love everything about this post! Our babies are quite close in age (I commented when I was still pregnant about prepping meals to freeze :) and I so relate to the feeling of unexpectedly devoting this last year to keeping the baby alive, happy and healthy...but as we get closer to her turning 1, realizing that I can actually make a dinner that is more hands on (although not quite ready for a rowdy part on NYE - sleep is still such a precious thing!). This recipe looks divine - I have a knack for making boring, watery minestrone, but with the soffrito and pesto, this looks like it has tons of flavor. As a recent transplant to Seattle from Boston, I thought the freezing weather was behind me - this soup is just what we need to warm us up! Keep up the great work!
Hi, Kim. I hear you on the sleep front. And I'm sure people have told you this, but this is a little colder than it usually is in Seattle ... wet and gray are pretty common, but these temps are cold! Hope you're enjoying Seattle so far and settling in ok. It's a great city for babies / kiddos. Not sure what neighborhood you live in, but all the libraries have great story hours and lots of parks for when the weather heats up just a bit ... thanks so much for taking the time to say hello. Happy New Year!
I am pretty sure I clipped this recipe, too. (: With you, as always... One of my favorite NYE celebrations since Ben and I have been together was last year, when we landed back in our apartment from Michigan around 11pm, cracked some Champagne, and dug out the frozen ciabatta and packaged goat cheese I'd stashed before we'd left. We sat under a blanket to watch the ball drop and went to bed. Simple, easy, perfect. Maybe it means we're old, but if so, it's not a side effect I mind. I'm also working on resolutions and enjoying a new planner. Here's to realistic, motivating goals and plans for the year ahead...!
Stacy: that evening sound PERFECT. Simple and easy are what I gravitate towards these days for sure. And I agree: if that means we're old, oh well! Curious to know what planner you're using? My sis got me the Ink + Volt (formerly Spark journals, I think) and I've been really liking it so far. Going to be a challenge to keep it up, but trying to hold myself to it! Hope you and Ben had a nice trip / break - I was thinking about you during our all too quick trip to the Bay Area. xo
My planner is just a classic Moleskin, but I also have a line-a-day journal (on year 4!) that I love for the ritual of writing something - but not everything - each day and for the fact that it reminds me of things from years prior that I might otherwise forget. And I have a blank journal, too. When I say all of this, it seems your one-book strategy might be wiser ;)
Love it. I have a few classic Moleskins that kind of gather dust because I've assigned very specific / too specific things for each (you're for inspirational quotes, you're for journaling). Such a funny personal thing. xo!
I feel like everyone needs a good minestrone recipe as one of those solid kitchen go-tos. I used to think it was boring or just generally not very delicious, but since moving to Italy I've come to accept and then actually really enjoy minestrone. I haven't tried putting zucchini into mine yet - I always thought it would come out kind of watery and tasteless - but now I'm inspired to give it a try. Also, the hazelnut pesto sounds fantastic!
Hi, Sara! I totally hear you on the watery front and I tend to prefer pureed soups because I like a thicker, substantial soup ... but this minestrone doesn't feel watery largely thanks to the pesto and soffrito, I think. Definitely worth a shot! I won't lie: There's a lot of chopping, but the soffrito makes many pots of soup (I froze my extras in little plastic bags) and the leftover pesto was great on toast. Happy New Year!
Oh, I just love this! I found myself nodding along several times as I read through this post! Your New Year's Eve sounds perfect to this mom of two young boys! :) And I can totally relate to your resolution-making process! And of course-- the soup! Soup is one of my favorite things to cook and to eat, especially in January! This one sounds especially nourishing, particularly the pesto-- YUM! Happy New Year! :)
Happy New Year, Amanda! If you get around to making it, I hope you all enjoy the soup. FINALLY getting around to writing down those resolutions. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Enjoy your week!
This looks like exactly what I'm craving at the moment too! In fact, I too made a soup last night despite it being summer in my neck of the woods. Shall try this one when the craving hits next! Happy new year!
Happy New Year to you as well, Deepa!
Meg, a blustery, rainy day in the Bay Area and perfect timing for a Sweet Spoonful post. We loved it. This will be added to my soup repertoire. To the family, run Oliver, run! Happy 2017 :)
YAY! Happy 2017 to you guys as well. So glad you enjoyed the soup. Lots of chopping - but it pays off in the end. xoxo
This is my new favorite soup. I have made two pots of it already and just love it. There is a bit of prep work involved but it is so worth it. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
I love the simplicity and satisfaction in the sound of your days. That's part of us getting older, I think - when we take pleasure in the simple joys and realize that really is what life is about. I'm excited to hear more about your goals/thoughts/resolutions for the new year. I do love the sound of more play as you mentioned on Instagram. That is a resolution I can 100% get on board with.
This was great! I've made this several times already but pulling out of the freezer cubed courgettes and the soffrito I had prepped a couple of months back felt particularly satisfying today, maybe because it's freezing out there! I left out the kale and used black-eyed peas. Thank you for a lovely recipe :)