A hot soup perfect for using the best of summer vegetables
It's 92 degrees outside, and I'm making soup -- hot soup. Minestrone, to be precise.
No, I haven't lost my mind.
Although it seems counterintuitive, hot food -- both in temperature and in degrees of spiciness -- can actually help cool you down. It has to do with the receptors in your brain, signaling your body to cool down. Your blood circulation increases, you start sweating and once the moisture has evaporated -- voila! -- you cool down.
That's the theory, anyway. In truth, I had a bunch of vegetables in the fridge that needed cooking in a timely manner, so I turned up the air conditioning and proceeded to make soup.
Besides acting as a coolant, a nice summer minestrone has the added benefit of utilizing whatever summer vegetables you may have on hand or have in abundance -- zucchini, fresh tomatoes and basil, for instance.
Basically, minestrone is a vegetable soup with the addition of pasta and beans. I like to add a little pesto or pistou in the bottom of the bowl before ladling the soup to add depth of flavor (and use up my basil).
Here's a recipe from a former co-worker. I haven't seen her in years, but I think of her every time I make this soup. Her exact version is labeled a fall soup, but with a few tweaks, I think I've turned it into a fine summer soup. Feel free to tweak away as this recipe is very forgiving.
You can eat this minestrone hot and hope it cools you down. Or do as the Italians do and serve summer minestrone at room temperature with a nice glass of Soave.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.
Lori's Minestrone -- the Summer Version
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes (canned are fine)
3 quarts of water
A bouquet garni consisting of 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley and 3 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen string
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sliced green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup yellow squash, diced
½ cup small pasta, such as elbow macaroni, or broken spaghetti
Pinch of saffron
Pistou (recipe follows)
Parmesan, grated, to be used as a topping
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large soup pot and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until softened and slightly browned. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Add the garlic, stir together for about a minute, and stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add 3 quarts water, the bouquet garni, the turnip, zucchini, Great Northern beans, green beans, squash, pasta and saffron. If necessary, add boiling water to make sure vegetables are covered. Simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Remove the garni. Taste and adjust salt and add pepper to taste.
½ cup fresh basil
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup olive oil
Add all ingredients into a food processor minus the olive oil. Drizzle the olive in as the machine is whirling. Add the pesto to the bottom of a soup tureen (or the bottom of each bowl). Top with the soup and stir. Add more Parmesan to garnish the soup.