The Politics of Minestrone

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It has been mentioned and implied to me in passing that perhaps a food blog is not a place for politics. I say food is one of the most political things in the world based on the abundance or lack of,  trade agreements between countries, crops and the ability to farm or not farm,  all affected by conflicts, weather, whims and cultures. Every food we eat or drink is influenced by governments here and abroad. Food is something that many have too much of and many more have too little of. If that is not political I am not sure what is. How do you feel about this?

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The greens in this soup recipe were picked and packaged by workers in Southern California, the canned beans and tomatoes, the Parmigiano came from Italy as well as the word “minestrone” meaning ” a thick vegetable soup with or without pasta”.  The white bowl in my photo was made in Portugal, the pepper grinder from France and the salt pot from a ceramicist in Nashville….oh yeah, the sea salt from England. The quality and safety of each is determined by rules and laws set down by local and federal governments. Trade agreements allow us access to these items.. All directly depend on the politics of where they come from and where they are going to end up. Such is the “politics of minestrone”.

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The rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano add a unique flavor to a pot of minestrone. So don’t toss them when you have grated down to the rind, save for soup.

Hearty, easy and comforting. We can all use a little comfort…no?

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This is an interesting website with lots of interesting videos about food that might make you think about all kinds of food and life in some new ways.

March Minestrone Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss Chard, trimmed & rough chopped
  • 1/2 head of Savoy Cabbage, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh baby Spinach leaves
  • One 28oz. can of whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 quart low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a stock pot heat olive oil and add chopped onion and celery and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in smashed garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
  2. To pot add tomatoes with juice, breaking up whole tomatoes as you add them to the pot with your hands. Stir in the chicken broth and water.
  3. Toss in the Parmigiano rind and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the cut up cabbage and spinach leaves and cook on low for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chard leaves and beans and cook another 15 minutes on a low simmer.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Discard Parmigiano rinds before serving.

Note: This soup is often served with a cooked, small pasta such as mini shells or ditalini. Trying to cut calories wherever I can we just ate as is.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   http://www.foodonfifth.com

Fusilli Al Ferretto with Turkey, Spinach & Feta Meatballs to get you into an Italian State of Mind

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This will be short and savory as I am soon to embark on a trip…to various European countries…Italy among them. Which led to thoughts of food and pasta and sauces and the wonders that await my palate.I will leave you with a very good recipe that is easy to make, not much cooking time needed and if you close your eyes while eating you might get into an Italian state of mind right along with me.

 I have often mentioned the little Italian grocery store and pasta shop on my street, Lazzaroli’s, right here in Nashville on 5th Avenue North.  It will get anyone in an Italian food state of mind for sure. I picked up this bag of Fusilli Al Ferretto, translated to mean “wrapped on a needle”, for my recipe.  Fresh pasta is made everyday by Tom Lazzaro who is a master of all he touches. Cheeses, dried and fresh pastas, homemade ricotta, sauces, balsamic vinegars to die for, breads, homemade sauces abound. It is a little shop with all things edible and Italian.

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So beautiful. Wonderfully twisted and hollow to hold the sauce.

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Simple to make turkey meatballs with feta and fresh spinach.

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A carton of homemade tomato sauce from Lazzaroli’s added to the pan.

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Pasta added and tossed. A grating of Parmesan Reggiano and crusty bread.

Close your eyes…take a bite….you are in your own little Italy…right?

Buon Appetito!

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Fusilli al Ferretto with Turkey, Feta and Fresh Spinach Meatballs

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Herbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. Fusilli al Ferretto pasta or other tube pasta
  • 2 cups Marinara sauce – homemade preferred
  • Parmesan Reggiano grated
  • a bottle of your favorite Italian Red Wine to drink along with your meal

Directions:

  1. Mix together the ground turkey, chopped spinach, feta cheese crumbles, Italian Herb mixture and freshly ground black pepper. Blend well. Form the mixture into meatballs. Chill for 20 minutes on a baking sheet before cooking.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile saute meatballs in olive oil over medium high heat until lightly browned and cooked inside.
  4. Add marinara sauce to the pan and turn heat to simmer.
  5. When water comes to a boil add the pasta and cook according to the package directions or until al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.
  6. Add pasta to the pan with the meatballs and sauce and toss. If you like a more wet sauce add a bit of the pasta water.
  7. Serve pasta with a dusting of grated Parmesan, some warm crusty bread and a bottle of Italian red.

Teresa Blackburn    teresablackburnfoodstying.com

“September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie with Thyme-Pepper Crust”

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The September tomatoes…the ripe red ones that hang on vines starting to droop, vines heavy with green tomatoes that will never see red…these ripe homegrowns are the sweetest of the season I think. They are summer’s last gift before it is all a memory.

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What to do with the last few tomatoes just picked? A BLT…a jar of tomato sauce…a pie? Yes. I love to make pies.  A deep savory pie it will be.

A crust using fresh lemon thyme from my garden along with some freshly ground black peppercorns is where I will start.

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I am a fan of the springform pan for tarts & pies as well as for cake. A straight sided savory pie is just so beautiful.

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Thick sliced homegrown tomatoes salted and draining on paper towels before adding to the pie helps pull out some of the water before using. I do not want this pie to be too watery.

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The spinach & ricotta filling  is creamy enough to hold up the next layers.

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Filling topped with thick sliced toms and crispy, thick sliced bacon torn into pieces.

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Creamy spinach filling, salty-sweet September tomatoes & crispy bacon. Let’s eat! DSC_1955

September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour with a pinch of salt added
  • 1 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
  • a few tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 med homegrown tomatoes sliced thickly/or 1 large tomato & some cherry toms
  • 1 cup whole fat ricotta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh spinach steamed, drained & chopped
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cooked crispy & broken into pieces
  • sea salt & freshly ground black peppercorns

Directions:

  1. For crust put the flour, pinch of salt, thyme leaves & pepper in a food processor & pulse a few times. Add cold butter pieces, pulse a few more times until incorporated.
  2. With machine running drizzle in ice-cold water until a dough ball forms. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.
  3. In the meantime, place thickly sliced tomatoes on paper towels & sprinkle with some sea or kosher salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. This will pull some of the moisture out of the tomatoes. Right before adding to the pie pat dry again with dry paper towels.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Roll chilled dough out on a floured board into a circle large enough to fit into & half-way up the sides of  a 9″ springform  pan.
  5. Spray pan bottom & sides with cooking spray. Fit dough into the pan bottom & half way up sides. Crimp and fold to make an even top edge. Set aside.
  6. In a mixing bowl whisk together the ricotta and eggs, 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper,  until fluffy. Stir in drained & chopped spinach. Mix well.
  7. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the bottom of the dough. Top with the ricotta-spinach mixture. Add tomato slices. Scatter the crispy bacon pieces over all.
  8.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until puffy & golden brown and center is set. Cover with a sheet of foil if the top starts getting too brown.  Let rest for 20 min. before cutting.

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“A Simple Snow Day Soup to Melt the Ice & Warm Your Heart”

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This is for all you Mid-Westerners out there…those of you who have to get up in the dark to feed your livestock, milk the cows, feed the hens…every harsh winter day. This winter has been especially cold & snowy for one of my favorite bloggers, Cecillia, at thekitchengarden. She just writes the best stories about her “farmy” in Illinois. Go by for a visit….she is my warm, cozy, lentil soup inspiration.

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It is a simple enough soup that I conjured up on the one & only real “snow day” experienced this winter here at Fifth Avenue North. I, of course, loved every flake that fell, lightly covering the sidewalks & streets. There is something so beautiful about walking in the dark as snow flakes fall under city streetlights. I did not have to care for any sheep, cows or piggies. I just walked the dog leisurely and wandered aimlessly…heading home when I got too cold to enjoy a bowl of “Snow Soup”.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup chopped onions, 2 cloves garlic smashed, 2 carrots sliced, 1 (28 oz/two 14 oz) cans Fire-Roasted Tomatoes with juice, 4 cups low-fat chicken broth, 1 cup dried sprouted lentils, a generous handful of baby spinach leaves or chopped kale, kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

(All items I had in my pantry, we do not drive to the store on our “snowy day” here in Nashville, TN!)

        Carrots & onions in olive oilFire-roasted Tomatoeschicken broth

1. Saute onions in olive oil until slightly softened. Add smashed garlic cloves & cook 1 minute.  Toss in carrots & stir. Add can(s) of fire-roasted tomatoes & chicken broth. Bring to a low boil.

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2. Stir in lentils. Cook on simmer for a 30 minutes, stirring every so often just until lentils are softened. (Add more broth or water if soup gets too thick for your taste.)

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3. Toss in the spinach or kale & cook just until greens are wilted. Serve hot with “Parmesan Cornbread Croutons” (recipe to follow)

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“Parmesan-Cornbread Croutons”

Ingredients: 2 cups self rising yellow cornmeal, 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup buttermilk or whole milk, 1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a flat baking pan. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, spread in prepared pan, sprinkle with shredded Parm & bake until golden brown & puffy, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool on a rack. When cool, cut into croutons to top off your soup.

                      ingredients for cornbread croutonsParmesan Cornbread Croutons

Parmesan Cornbread CroutonsOutside there were no blizzards, nor banks of snow, no waiting animals or chores to be done. I sat quietly, eating my Snow Soup, looking out my window sending warm thoughts to all the folks on all the “farmys” in the Mid-West this night.

Stay warm, Spring is near.