By the time you read this, summer will be officially over (sniff, sniff). With the changing of the seasons, our taste for salads is quickly turning into a demand for soup. Case in point – last weekend I attended a natural dye workshop on beautiful Lopez Island that I can’t wait to tell you about but it’ll have to wait until next week. First things first. On the second day of the workshop, the caterer promised hot soup for lunch but showed up with tuna salad. Outrage ensued! The disappointment was almost as thick as the fog that was chilling us to the bone.
The first thing I did upon my return wasn’t to start in dyeing bundles of fabric, although I picked up some purple carrots yesterday at the farmers market — the most coveted dye material of the weekend. No, I went out into the garden so see what I could use to make some soup. Between a stop at Hedlin’s Farm stand in La Conner, my garden and the Wallingford farmers market, I had plenty of fixings for a beautiful minestrone and then some. The variety of vegetables is outrageous now and if your freezer isn’t completely packed, you can make some extra soup for the gray days that will undoubtedly come soon enough.
Due to our unusually perfect summer, many of us have tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes and chard. By adding garlic and onions, you could make an excellent soup and call it good but fresh shelling beans are showing up at the farmers markets. I picked up these lovely cranberry beans to make my minestrone a bit more authentic.
This soup recipe was inspired by the Late Summer Minestrone in a new cookbook called Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian by Melissa Clark, Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens. It’s well worth checking out. You’ll find lots of recipes to make with our northwest local, seasonal ingredients.
Harvest Season Minestrone Soup
Ingredients: 8 medium ripe tomatoes, I used a combination including San Marzanos/ 2 medium red onions, chopped/ At least 6 cloves of garlic, minced/ Parmigiano-reggiano cheese rinds – scrape away the waxy residue/ 1 cup fresh cranberry beans, shelled/ 4 cups water/ 6 new potatoes, cut into rounds/ 2 small zucchinis, cut into slices/ 1 bunch swiss chard, stems chopped, leaves chopped/ Big handful green beans, cut into pieces/ Basil leaves/ Olive oil/ Salt & pepper/ Freshly grated parmigiano cheese/ Burrata cheese (optional, but I had some on hand).
Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil/ Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato and blanch in the boiling water for 30 seconds/ Remove from pot, let cool, then peel away the skin and chop coarsely/ In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes/ Add chopped tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes/ Add cheese rind (in cheesecloth if you wish), cranberry beans and water to the pot/ Cook until beans are about halfway cooked, about 20 minutes/ Add potatoes and cook until beans and potatoes are tender/ In a large skillet heat more olive oil and saute chard stems until tender/ Add zucchini and beans, salt well and saute a few minutes, just until tender/ Add chard leaves, salt again and saute until wilted/ Remove the cheese rind from the tomato soup base and add vegetables/ Garnish with fresh basil (or pesto), freshly grated cheese, salt and pepper and if you have it, a big piece of burrata is absolutely divine.
You may have noticed that this version of minestrone doesn’t include pasta. If you want to, by all means, add some, but truthfully, I didn’t miss it at all — it’s all about the fresh vegetables and letting them shine for what may be the last time until next summer. A perfect way to ease into our long season of comfort food.