Sometimes I am utterly surprised and dumbfounded by what tickles the taste buds of the kids in my "food appreciation" classes. Turns out they are wild for minestrone.
This lesson concludes our study of fresh, seasonal summer fruits and vegetables. In the last month, we covered peaches in a peach cobbler, tomatoes with a fresh hand-made pesto sauce, zucchini carpaccio with goat cheese and cucumbers in a simple salt and vinegar salad.
It's a pretty sure bet that kids will love anything that smacks of dessert. They had mixed feelings about tomatoes and zucchini (they definitely like the zucchini sauteed more than they do the raw version) and they are more open to cucumber.
So who would have guessed you could mix those vegetables and more in a simple soup and they would fall crazy in love?
Minestrone, the classic Italian soup, incorporates so many of the vegetables we associate with summer harvest that it is a perfect match for a trip to the farmer's market this time of year. Onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, green been, potato, tomato, cabbage--this soup has it all. I can't think of a more healthful soup full of flavor and vegetable goodness.
I can recommend it even for the harried cook because it is so easy. Just cook the vegetables until tender in a heavy pot, add broth, cook a bit longer and it's ready to serve with a nice shaving of Parmesan cheese over the top. Of course, there is the matter of some vegetable prep, precisely why I chose it for my classes. The kids were all begging for a chance to use the peeler, to slice carrots and zucchinim, to help clean up.
With this lesson, we read a book called Soup for Supper, about a little old woman who lives alone with her vegetable garden, then one day encounters a giant who unwittingly steals all her vegetables for his soup pot. It's a bit dated, but fun for me to switch voices from wee little woman to big hairy giant.
Minestrone to serve 4 - 6 persons:
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, peeled and diced small
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
1/2 zucchini, diced small
1 medium white or red potato, peeled and diced small
handfull of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces then measured
1 quart chicken broth (preferably homemade)
1 cup water
1/2 14-ounce can cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed
1/2 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot. Add onion, carrot and celery, season with coarse salt (about 1 teaspoon) and cook until onions begin to soften, about five minutes. Add remaining vegetables and continue cooking a few minutes longer. Add chicken broth and water, bring pot to boil, then reduce heat and cook gently until the vegetables are completely cooked through and the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Add beans and tomatoes and bring back up to heat.
To serve, divide into warm bowls and grate Parmesan cheese over the soup. Serve with a thick slice of hearty bread.
Note: you can also stir pesto sauce into this soup.