• (Mostly) Easy Minestrone

    Easy Minestrone.

    Easy Minestrone.

    mine1mine2Seeing as how we grow a lot of our own produce we should know better than to simply judge produce on its appearance. In fact, often the best tasting fruits and veggies are downright ugly, and certainly not the stuff you would see on supermarket shelves. But both in our garden and at the farmers market we are still suckers for a pretty face. Happily, these days you can get both good-looking and good tasting produce. Such is the case with some colorful red carrots we bought at the farmers market. Beautiful, crunchy and sweet…we got a bunch.

    mine4So here we are back with our common challenge, “what do we do with all these carrots?” Well, with carrots we either eat them raw with a pinch of salt (never gets old), or we are making soup. Seeing as how salted carrots doesn’t make up much of a blog post, we went for soup. If we had any pork stock or ham hocks we would make “holiday hangover soup” or a garbure, but we don’t. We did have chicken stock and some left over pasta. Yup…time for Minestrone.

    mine5mine6We won’t get into the history of Minestrone and we aren’t even sure there is a truly “traditional” recipe. But if you have some veggies, chicken or vegetable stock and some pasta, you can cobble together a decent Minestrone. Add a little cured pork, maybe some white beans, fresh herbs and simmer with a parmesan rind and you get something that gets pretty darn good. And feeds an army.

    mine7mine8The recipe we use is a riff on a riff on a riff of an Ina Garten “Winter Minestrone” recipe, which itself is a riff on a very common formula. We change the recipe quite a bit, but we do use the same slate of winter vegetables, particularly some butternut squash that adds very nice sweet flavor to the soup along with a bit of spinach at the end that adds color and welcome bitter notes. We also use more cured pork (of course) dried beans we soak (yes, it is worth it), fresh herbs and the parmesan rind. Lots of flavor and not a lot of work other than chopping veggies.

    mine9What you do need here is time. Chopping the veggies takes a while. Soaking beans (either a long or quick soak) requires some planning and advance work. And cooking the soup takes at least an hour. Basically this is a weekend dish. The good news is that, as is often the case with this type of soup, the Minestrone is better the next day. So you can make a batch on Sunday and serve it for dinner and then have the Minestrone as a very tasty lunch or light supper later in the week. A pretty good deal and a very good way to use of some of those lovely veggies you get at the market…or from your garden.

    mine10Easy Minestrone:

    (Adapted, somewhat, from Ina Garten)

    Notes before you start:

    • You can use canned white beans but we heavily suggest rehydrating and cooking dried white beans. The simply taste better.
    • You can soak beans overnight (better) or quick soak the beans- just cover the beans with water, bring the water almost to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let the beans steep, covered, for an hour and then cook.

    What You Get: Very tasty and healthy soup that will last for a few days.

    What You Need: No special equipment required, just be ready to chop some veggies.

    How Long? At least a few hours, mostly inactive other than chopping. Budget time to soak the beans.

    Ingredients:

    (Makes 8 big servings)

    • 1 pound dried white or cannellini beans (soaked overnight or quick-soaked)
    • Olive oil
    • 6 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups yellow onions, diced (diced= roughly 1/2 inch pieces)
    • 2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
    • 2 cups celery, diced
    • 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano (optional)
    • 1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes
    • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
    • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
    • 6 to 8 cups chicken stock
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 cups cooked small pasta
    • 8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
    • Parmesan and/or Romano cheese for garnish
    • Italian parsley, for garnish

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  • Mixology Monday “Intercontinental” Cocktail #2: Two Trios

    Two Trios Cocktail.

    Two Trios Cocktail.

    Lots of cocktails at the farm these days (well, sort of, more reading and shopping than actual drinking, but such is life).  We may just need to change the name to Putney Tavern (hmmm…I like the sound of that). In any event, we are the hosts of Mixology Monday and the drinks are rolling in, so we figured we would do one more cocktail. The theme is “Intercontinental” and the challenge is to use ingredients from multiple continents (full details here). We used five continents in the Horn of Good Hope cocktail, so now we are looking to use six.

    mxmologotrioSeeing as our bar is already full of ridiculous esoteric bottles, we decided to look to the orchard, garden and pantry for ingredients from the “tough” continents like Africa and Australia. And pretty soon we learned that our Cayenne pepper is from Africa (who knew?) and that our candied and crystalized ginger is from Australia. From there, things started rolling.

    trio1trio2One concept we are familiar with is the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking, the mirepoix of onion, green pepper and celery. But there is also a lesser-known “trio” of using black, white and red pepper in spicier recipes. The idea is to give heat, bite and burn to a dish so you get layers of spice. This concept works really well in cooking, so we figured we could apply it to the cocktail. The ginger has heat and the Cayenne burn, so all we needed was some “bite”.

    trio3Well, with booze, that is easy enough. The spirits themselves have kick, and citrus (without too much sugar) has that sour bite. So now that we had a few ingredients, we just looked to the map and started to play. One of our favorite spirits, El Dorado Demerara rum comes from South America, we chose to go in the direction of a daiquiri. And since we were thinking of trios, we decided to use three types of citrus that would add complexity and help finish our “map”.

    trio4The Two Trios combines Demerara rum (Guiana, South America), Persian lime juice (North America, oddly enough), Meyer lemon juice (originally from Asia), Curaçao (Europe, France in this case), ginger liqueur (Europe, although the ginger is Asia or Australia), a pinch of Cayenne pepper (Africa) and a crystalized ginger garnish (Australia). Antarctica will have to wait.

    trio5So how does it taste? Very, very good. One of our better Mixology Monday cocktails, and one we will make again. The Two Trios lands somewhere between a daiquiri and a tiki drink with a clear rum and citrus base augmented by a wave of extra spice. You get sour lime and rum up front and then the orange, lemon and ginger in the middle. And at the end you get just a hint of burn from the Cayenne. It builds, but just enough that you know it’s there. And if you take a bite of the crystalized ginger you get a nice blast of sweet heat. A good sip from beginning to end.

    trio8So that is our second Mixology Monday cocktail. Every time we do this it gets the creative juices flowing and we learn something along the way. And usually we end up with a tasty cocktail. Not a bad deal…not bad at all. Roundup post coming soon!

    Two Trios Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Demerara rum (El Dorado gold)
    • 1/2 oz. Curacao (Pierre Ferrand)
    • 1/2 oz. ginger liqueur (Massenez)
    • 1/2 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. Meyer lemon juice
    • 1 pinch Cayenne pepper
    • Crystalized ginger, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Spear the crystalized ginger on a long toothpick or cocktail spear.
    2. Combine all the liquid ingredients and the Cayenne in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with the crystalized ginger. Serve.