Summer arrives late in Pennsylvania. Later than we’ve become used to, at least, having spent the past five years in the south. I’ve been appreciating the cool weather for a change, but it did feel like it took forever for tomatoes to ripen on the vine! The cherry tomatoes pictured above were hand picked by me at our local CSA , Asbury Village Farm in nearby Asbury, NJ.
New posts have been few and far between this summer. We have some news, and then bigger news! We moved to Easton, PA about a month ago. Our new apartment is much bigger than our place in Philadelphia and has a lovely kitchen. It has granite countertops, lots of cabinet and storage space and the same appliances we had in our house in North Carolina. Easton has a pretty unique culinary scene. While it still doesn’t compare to my beloved Durham, I am appreciating our new home.
Our very big news, and the culprit for my lack of updating is that we are expecting a baby! We are beyond excited, but pregnancy has taken a toll on my cooking and productivity in general. For the first three months, cooking was one of the last things I wanted to do. Only recently have I gotten my energy back enough to cook and snap photos at the same time. I believe the nesting instinct is in full swing, because I’ve wanted only to make gigantic pots of soups and stews to freeze for later. The baby is due in January.
As we get deeper into summer vegetables have been abundant. It’s been both challenging and fun to think of recipes which use as many of them as possible. I’m happy to say for this summer minestrone I only had to buy the leeks, carrots, canned tomatoes and beans in the store. The rest was harvested fresh this very morning! That might not seem too impressive, but when you see the extensive ingredient list you’ll understand how exciting it is that most of it came from the farm.
Our CSA onions have been smaller than those you find in the grocery, but so colorful and potent.
Each week we get about two pounds of potatoes. I have had no trouble using them. We just polished off a simple potato salad with mayonnaise and chives. The new potatoes earlier in the summer were just divine in a Salad Niçoise.
A warning: This soup is by no means fast or simple, but it’s so worth it. It’s packed full of vegetables, so budget time for peeling and chopping and be sure to enlist help! And have a glass of wine while you chop–if you drink wine and are not pregnant! I think that taking the extra time to chop the vegetables by hand really improves the texture of this soup. I don’t usually peel my potatoes, but for this I did because texture is everything in a minestrone!
I’ve been trying to limit my consumption of canned goods to avoid BPA, so I’ve been making many batches of beans in the crock pot. However, I didn’t have time to soak overnight and cook in the morning this time around. I intend to can my own stewed tomatoes this summer, but haven’t gotten the chance. So for this recipe I used Cento’s San Marzano tomatoes. You can also use fresh tomatoes and add more liquid. Cento also makes a Tomato Passata in a glass container, but beware that the lids on glass containers also contain BPA!
Summer Minestrone with Pesto
(Adapted from Vegetarian edited by Nicola Graimes)
Recipe for the Minestrone
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs celery, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
- 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
- 10 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled Cento San Marzano Tomatoes and their liquid, or 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 springs fresh thyme, washed and stemmed
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 yellow squash, diced
- 2 15.5-ounce cans great northern beans, washed and drained
Recipe for the Pesto
- 2 cups packed fresh basil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pignoli nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, leeks, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are tender but not browned.
- Add potatoes and fresh tomatoes (if using) and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in canned tomatoes and their liquid. Sprinkle in thyme and add bay leaves. Cook for a minute.
- Add stock or water and stir to combine. Bring to a rapid boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender.
- While the soup simmers, prepare the pesto. Place basil, garlic, pignoli, and cheese in a blender or food processor.
- Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients.
- Using an attachment, slowly pour in olive oil while blending pesto at a low speed.
- Once combined, blend for another minute or so until the pesto is smooth.
- Scrape into another container and set aside, but leave remaining pesto in food processor or blender.
- Stir in diced zucchini and yellow squash into the soup. Cover, and allow to simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until squash is tender but not overcooked.
- Using a ladle, remove 1-2 cups of cooked vegetables and a little bit of liquid and set aside to cool slightly. Place reserved soup in the food processor or blender with the pesto that was not scraped out of the container. Blend at a slow speed. Pour back into soup to thicken.
- About 10 minutes before serving, add beans.
- Remove from heat. Stir in reserved pesto.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Serve topped with freshly grated pecorino romano. Makes a hearty but light meal with a slice of whole grain bread.
Can’t think of a better way to showcase the summer’s vibrant and delicious vegetables. Like most soups, it tastes even better reheated the next day!