Minestrone has always been one of my favorite soups, but when I did an online search for recipes I found so many variations it made my head spin. Suffice to say minestrone is one of those dishes intended for using up leftovers, and for that it works quite nicely. I can clean out my fridge and create a tasty dish at the same time. Best of all, it’s never the same twice.
As I created my own version of minestrone I noticed I used a few ingredients consistently. The rest was whatever I happened to have on hand, which is why I’m leaving plenty of leeway on my ingredients list.
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (optional)
1 cup sliced celery (optional)
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 or 2 carrots, sliced (optional)
1 small (8 oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 can garbanzo beans
Other leftover vegetables, such as corn, lima beans, chopped zucchini or cubed potatoes
3/4 cup small pasta, such as stars, small shells, or mini farfalle
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 package of spinach, fresh, frozen or canned
Heat oil and butter, if desired, in a stock pot and saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots or celery. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add tomato sauce and broth or water. Stir well. Add any remaining vegetables, garbanzo beans, seasonings and pasta. Heat to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for twenty minutes. Add spinach and simmer for another minute or two. Serve with bread, rolls or corn muffins.
Here in southern Arizona we have an abundant supply of citrus. So, what do you do when someone gives you a big bag full of fresh oranges? You do what Rosie would have done. Use them to create something wonderful. This recipe is easy and delicious, and I had a dear friend who adored it.
ORANGE CHOCOLATE CHIP LOAF
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest *
1/2 cup orange just
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add orange zest and orange juice. Mix until well blended. Add flour mixture, a little at time. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. Bake for one hour.
If desired, make glaze by stirring sugar and orange juice together in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over loaf. Let stand for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan.
I’ve always subscribed to the notion that what separates a good cook from a not so good cook is their willingness to tweak recipes to put their own stamp on them. However, I sometimes get annoyed with celebrity chefs on television. I’ve watched them belittle the old classics, saying they’re too “old fashioned.” Or they’ll make a crass remark about it being the 21st century and not 1950s. Really? What a bunch of conceited, arrogant jerks!
What makes these recipes classic? The answer is simple. They taste great. That’s why they’ve been around for such a long time.
I’ll always remember my grandmother’s cooking. As far as my siblings and I were concerned, no one on the planet could cook better than Grandma. I also remember my sister-in-law bragging about writing down all of Grandma’s recipes. Those recipes are family heirlooms. Nothing makes us feel like Grandma is still with us more than enjoying her tapioca pudding or her chicken and dumplings.
I feel the same when I prepare my dad’s famous pinto beans. My father could hold his own in the kitchen. In fact, he could open the refrigerator, grab leftovers, and create an amazing dish without a recipe.
A family recipe collection can be a priceless legacy which can be easily copied and shared. You never need to worry about fighting with your siblings over who gets the recipe box. You won’t have to pay any estate tax on it either. That is, until the government figures out a way to do it.
So, here’s to my grandmother’s recipes, and our passing them down to our own grandchildren.