Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I handle periods of transition with the finesse of a baby tolerating a dirty diaper.  Under the best circumstances, I squirm and make faces to reflect my discomfort.  I may whine a little bit.  Depending on the severity of the situation, I feel compelled to burst into tears.  One would hope that my tolerance for change would increase with experience; this does not seem to be the case.  Under my critical observation, my improvements seem to be occurring at a rate that does not allow for functional changes. 

Currently, I am transitioning from the role of “life-long-student,” into the vastly unstructured environment of unemployment.  There are some advantages to this situation: free time, free time, free time.  There is also the dingy hope of an interview or better yet (gasp!) an actual job offer.  There are also some co-occurring problems: the highly pronounced anxiety that barges in when you don’t get the interview/job offer.  My coping strategy with these issues tends to involve falling back on comfortable, old routines, like cooking.  Alas, yet another soup recipe was born.

Minestrone is a time-honored tradition in my family, although I sort of took it in my own direction.  When I was little, I sort of dreaded it because of the presence of zucchini.  I would avoid the zucchini, and eat everything else I could, until my mom inevitably required that I finish it.  With a trembling hand, I would lift each spoonful of cold, neglected zucchini, and chew as quickly as possible to prevent gagging.

My “adult” palette has revised its opinion of zucchini, and I stand behind a firm recommendation of this soup.  This is a fairly traditional recipe, except that I included a good portion of tomato paste to give the broth a deep color and flavor.  I also cooked the pasta separately to prevent it from turning to mush, but this is matter of personal preference.  Overall, the soup was warm and comforting.  It had a round well-developed flavor from the garlic, herbs, and tomato paste.  Plus, it goes nicely with my favorite condiment: freshly grated Parmesan cheese.   I recommend the following progression:  cook the soup; drink a beer, eat a of soup bowl; drink another beer while eating another bowl; be happy.  But it’s just a suggestion (and please excuse the blurry photos).  


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 medium red skin potato, diced
6 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 small zucchinis, diced
Small cut pasta (cook separately)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

-       Preheat a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and butter.
-       Once the butter melts, add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Season with hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables become soft and translucent.
-       Add the tomato paste, stirring frequently for two minutes, until very fragrant.
-       Add canned tomatoes, broth, chickpeas, potatoes, and remaining seasonings. 
-       Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
-       Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add zucchini and cook for ten more minutes.
-       Place cooked pasta in soup bowls and add soup.  Garnish with parmesan.