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

Hearty Minestrone Soup with Feta-Parmesan Cornbread to Cure The February Funk

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The are many similarities between Southerners and Italians…we both like to talk excitedly and passionately about things we feel strongly about…we both love to cook and truly believe that food can heal among other things…a broken heart, the flu and any sort of general malaise. A general (February dark wet days) malaise seems to have fallen over many folks I have talked to this week. Nothing specific…just a general funk!

I suggest to cure your February Funk make this Minestrone Soup and Cornbread. Make a big pot to eat on for days. Make a big skillet of cornbread as well. I am sure you will brighten up and feel happier right away!

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My well-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet gives my recipe a very nice crust. A cast iron skillet like this one is a must for making true Southern cornbread.

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Minestrone Soup, Italian for a myriad of vegetable soups, can have pretty much whatever you want in it. One thing I always add is the leftover rind of Parmesan Cheese. Don’t throw them away as they add lots of flavor to any soup. I combine canned beans, fresh squash, canned or fresh tomatoes and chicken stock as the base for my version. You can add pasta or not. Experiment to come up with your own style.

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When I eat hearty winter soups like Minestrone a skillet of cornbread is part of the picture.  Experimenting with a basic cornbread recipe is my usual approach. This week I had lots of Feta and shredded-herbed Parmesan cheeses left over from a photo shoot.

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A good olive oil is what I put into the skillet while it is heating up. The cornbread will have a very crispy outside crust and stay moist inside if you get the skillet and oil very, very hot in a 400 degree oven before adding the batter. See what I mean below?

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Cook. Eat Well. Talk about stuff. Cook some more. You will feel better in the morning!

Hearty Minestrone Soup and Feta-Parmesan Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients for Minestrone Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini squash, cut into half moons
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into half moons
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 to 2 Parmesan cheese rinds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded (optional)

Ingredients for Cornbread:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for skillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Directions for Soup:

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pan over medium high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent.
  2. To soup pan add broth, zucchini and yellow squash, cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes and Parmesan rinds. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes  and shredded chicken if using.Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Also you can add a bit more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet and place in oven to get very hot.
  2. Blend together, using a whisk, the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the feta and Parmesan cheeses and the Italian herb mixture.
  4. To dry ingredients add 1/4 cup olive oil, egg and milk. Stir until blended.
  5. Remove hot skillet from oven and add cornbread batter. Place back in oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Serve hot cut  with Minestrone Soup.

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