Saturday, March 6, 2010
Recipe of the Week
I like this picture and needed something to start my post today, so I chose the logo for the Hanshin Tigers, a Japanese baseball team. It is close to Spring and baseball season, so there's a connection, but that's all. This post has nothing to do with Japanese baseball, (also called Yakyu), tigers or anything else besides food
I’ve tried this before, a food blog of sorts. I’m going to try it again and instead of labeling its success on how many hits or comments the site gets, I’ll just keep posting and take the idea that I’m writing to preserve a part of our life on “paper” for others, maybe the Grandkids, to have for the future. I’ll post it here on my Round Circle blog to start. I’ll branch off to its own place if the need arises.
The idea here is to post recipes, but not in the usual list of ingredients and instructions, but rather in a story form. I’ll tell about where and how I learned of the recipe, how I doctored it, if I did, and use a narrative style. In this style, it’s more like we’re sitting and talking about what has been made. Recipes are okay, but I like a story with them about the whys and wherefores. Actually, I’d love to have a few friends over and we talk and visit while we cook or bake.
So, here goes. The weather was starting to get cooler right when October started. September had been quite nice and still summery. We were still eating corn on the cob and watermelon in September. When the cold winds started to blow and the rains started in early October, conversation started about how we eat different things and cook differently when the weather changes.
Grand daughter Anna was involved in the conversation and she chimed in that she really liked the soup I made with all the vegetables in it. I wondered if she meant Minestrone soup or the basic Vegetable beef I have made from time to time. She told me she had a hankerin’ for the Minestrone. I decided to make a batch one day and went to the grocery for ingredients.
I took inventory of what I had in the fridge. Carrots, okay. Celery, okay. Onion, okay. I had chicken and beef soup base as well and all the spices I use were on hand. Oregano, basil, garlic, onion, parsley and black pepper. (the salt comes in when I add the chicken and beef soup base, so I don’t use a salt shaker at all). I had corn from this years harvest in the freezer. I decided to use that, but needed several other veggies to make this soup.
I made a mental list and headed out. I use parsnips and turnips in my soup, but I don’t want to buy a whole bag as I just use one or two small portions of each. A small rutabaga, some green beans, yellow and green zucchini, (a couple of small ones each), canned whole peeled tomatoes, (or fresh if I feel like the added work), and portobello mushrooms.
I’d also need a beef shank or two, a can of white cannelloni beans and some small pasta called ancini de pepe. This type of pasta is very small and shaped like a bead. It actually looks like a peppercorn, except for the color, and hence the name. We used to call this pasta pastina at home when I was a kid. Pastina means tiny dough. So, you get the idea. Very small round pasta goes into this soup.
I peel the carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabaga and slice them into small pieces. I slice the zucchini after splitting them lengthwise. They come out looking like half circles. I chop the onion and celery. The corn and green beans are added as is except I do cut the green beans to about a one inch length. I use canned tomatoes. I get one large can of the whole peeled tomatoes. If I use fresh tomatoes, I use Roma variety and blanch them in hot water, then cold, remove the skins, then chop them up and add them to the soup. Today I used a large can called a 303 can. This is usually right around a 28 ounce can.
The mushrooms I slice, and I add them later as they disintegrate in the hot broth. Same with the can of white cannelloni beans. Sometimes these are called italian white kidney beans.
With a little olive oil in the bottom of a large cookpot, I put the beef shanks in and let them braise. I turn them over and do both sides. Maybe 5-7 minutes on each side. I add the onion and let that cook a little along with the beef shanks, then I add the tomatoes and about a gallon or so of water. I add the rest of the chopped veggies except for the beans and the mushrooms as explained earlier.
The spices I generally use for Italian cooking
If I need more water to cover everything, then I add some. I let it come to a hard rolling boil, then I reduce the heat and simmer. I add the mushrooms and cannelloni beans about an hour before I think I’ll take the pot off the stove.
I add the spices and the chicken and beef broth. In the picture above, I show the spices I generally use when making an Italian dish. How much of what spice is always hard to figure out. I never measure. I put in probably about a big Tablespoon of parsley, oregano leaves and basil leaves. I’m sure I use a Tablespoon or two of onion and garlic. Black pepper? About 1 Tablespoon. The soup bases? Read the instruction on the jar and add the right amount for the amount of water you have in the pot. Adding these high quality soup bases adds saltiness and flavor to the concoction. I’m sure you can use either beef or chicken. I use both because I was taught that way.
I cook the pasta separately, about 1/4 to 1/3 of a one pound package, and add that, already cooked, to the broth. I add the pasta when I take the pot off the stove. I also pull the beef shanks out with a long pair of tongs, and cut them up. Zeke the dog gets the bones. The small pieces of meat are stirred back into the soup.
I did write out the ingredients and some basic instructions in case you want to make Minestrone Soup. You can add other things to the pot. I sometimes add some cut up red potatoes, sweet peas and green bell pepper.
A large pot of Minestrone soup simmering on the stove
1-2 beef shanks, seared in olive oil
1 Can Whole Tomatoes, smashed in your fingers, with juice
Fresh Corn cut from the cob
Fresh Turnips, cubed
Fresh Rutabaga, cubed
Fresh Parsnips, cubed
Fresh Green Beans, destemed, cut up
Fresh Onion, chopped
Fresh Carrots, chopped
Fresh Celery, chopped
1 Can Cannelloni Beans
Small Green and Yellow Zucchini, sliced thin
Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1/4 to 1/3 Pound of Ancini De Pepe Pasta, (or any small pasta), cooked separately
Chicken soup base
Beef soup base
Enough water to cover everything!
Bring to a rolling boil, simmer for at least a couple of hours.
Serve with a fresh hard crusted bread with butter or dipping oil
One of the things that I do that makes this real Italian is the addition of small meatballs to the soup. It is a separate act to make and boil the meatballs and adds some prep time and labor to this dish. Well worth it in my opinion. I use 24-30 small hand shaped home-made meatballs. Here’s how:
1 Pound of lean ground beef
1 Cup bread crumbs
A couple of Tablespoons of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
The same spices as used above, just a little of each, maybe a teaspoonful or less of each.
Mix together with your hands. Shape into small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Place all at once into a pan of boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from water, drain, add to the pot of soup. You can also broil the meatballs before adding to the soup. It doesn’t take long as the smaller portions broil up quickly.
There you have it. Minestrone Soup. Hearty, with meatballs and pasta, seasoned Italian style. The broth is rich and tasty. The vegetables will reduce in size and as the leftovers sit in the refrigerator, they will blend and become intermingled. Some will be indistinguishable from the others, but the taste will be there. It freezes well. Just thaw in the fridge, then heat in a sauce pan to serve again.
Questions? Call or e-mail. If you try it, I’d love to hear your story. What did you do different? Did you have any problems? Was it good? Did the people you served it to like it? Did they rave about it? Do you have your own recipe for Minestrone? And don’t forget the pictures.