Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
A lovely gentle “Green Minestrone” to make at home
Getting ready for next week’s visit to the Roadhouse and BAKE! by my longtime friend Rolando Beramendi, I was reminded of this wonderful fresh vegetable soup that Rolando cooked for me and Tammie at his Florence apartment last year! The freshness of the flavors made it so delicious that it’s been on my mind ever since. The recipe for “Green Minestrone” is in Rolando’s fantastic book, Autentico. I made this easy-to-prepare soup in just a little over half an hour. Simple and delicious! It was so good that Tammie decided to make it again two days later!
Many Americans have images of minestrone as a standard issue vegetable soup—often made to use up vegetables that are going to go bad—that’s of little culinary importance. What Rolando has written up in Autentico is actually the opposite of that sort of stereotypical minestrone. Instead of being thick with beans and vegetables, it’s a lovely, light, brothy way to feature the season’s best vegetables—in fact, the quality of the vegetables is what it’s all about!
In Autentico, Rolando does the soup in two steps—making a quick vegetable broth (which you can freeze if you like), then simmering it with an array of other fresh vegetables in it. I brought the two parts of the process together, simply starting the soup as soon as the broth was done.
The broth is made with large tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, parsley, garlic, basil, scallion, and sea salt. Because there are no good tomatoes to be had in the spring in Southeastern Michigan, I used a half dozen really terrific Italian canned plum tomatoes. To make Rolando’s recipe, start with six cups of fresh water. Add the tomatoes, herbs, scallion, and salt. In the book, he tells the story of learning to add fresh tomato leaves to enrich the broth—I’ll be trying it two months from now when Tammie’s tomato plants are fully grown! Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, all told for about 10 minutes. I added the cherry tomatoes—which I sliced into two to release their juices—about halfway through. You can strain and freeze the brodetto at that point if you want, to have on hand for future cooking. You can also, as I did, simply push ahead and prepare your dinner!
To make the soup, you’ll want a wide range of fresh seasonal vegetables. Celery (if it’s local and really good), fresh herbs, plenty of flat-leaf Italian parsley, zucchini, etc. Here’s what I used the other evening: a lot of fresh parsley (very coarsely chopped), chopped fresh tender spring turnips and their greens (chopped), fresh basil, fresh thyme, fresh spinach, a little local lovage, some broccolini (stems went in before the flowers), and, of course, asparagus. And some sea salt. Rolando likes scallions. You, of course, can add anything you want. The key is the quality of the vegetables, and as per Rolando’s recipe, a relatively short cook to highlight the freshness of the seasonal vegetables. Rolando writes that the only “rule” is not to cut everything to the same size before boiling until tender in the brodetto. It’s all about the “textures and surprising bites with every spoonful.” When it’s ready, add a bunch of freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper.
(Rolando’s recipe for this green minestrone uses no cheese, but I have seen many others—including one from Rolando’s and my good friend, Elizabeth Minchilli—that do suggest either adding a piece of rind to the broth while it’s cooking, and/or grating some Parmigiano Reggiano atop each bowl when you serve the soup. It’s good that way as well, but I prefer the fresh simplicity of Rolando’s approach—really great vegetables simmered slowly with water, sea salt, and dressed with full-flavored olive oil!)
Serve, as soon as the soup is ready, in warm bowls. Garnish with a good bit of full-flavored fruity Tuscan extra virgin olive oil—the oil is an important ingredient, so be generous! Put the pepper grinder on the table too for those (like me) who like a lot! Rolando recommends serving the soup with focaccia, which is easy for us here since the Bakehouse’s has been really lovely of late! The soup does reheat pretty well, so don’t be afraid of leftovers!