Back in the kitchen

February 20, 2011

I had grand plans. Test recipes during nap time. Photograph during nap time. Write during nap time. I’m not ashamed to admit my expectations of life at home with a newborn were completely (completely!) fantastical. Proving that I could “manage the house” with a newborn while poo-pooing the “sleep when he sleeps” mantra was sort of what I had in mind before we brought the wee one home. And then we brought the wee one home. I’ve since accepted that cooking for pleasure must take a back seat to sleeping, showering, sleeping, eating and sleeping if I have any intention of remaining sane, married and capable of caring for my two boys. The sacrifice has been more than worth it, but after nearly a month I was itching to get back in the kitchen for more than just bowls of cereal and toasted cheese.

Soup seemed like a reasonable place to start. After chopping the vegetables (therapy in and of itself), it simmers away on the stove without much tending to. I’ve deemed this a “weeknight” version of minestrone because it can be ready in under 1.5 hours, chop to serve. Big flavors are born out of sauteeing the vegetables first, browning the tomato paste, and simmering the soup with a parmesan rind which adds great depth. Cooking time is cut in half by using canned ceci beans.

I must be honest and tell you that I made this on a Sunday, not a weeknight at all, and it took me six hours to prepare, chop to serve. That’s what happens when naps run short, diapers need changed, and babes need fed. But I promise it can be ready in one-third the time, provided you don’t have a two-month-old distracting you with darling dimples.

Next time you grate through a block of parmesan, freeze the rind for occasions such as this. Some grocers sell rinds for cheap (check the specialty cheese case) or ask someone behind the deli counter. Because the rind is salty, wait to add additional salt until the soup has simmered for at least 30 minutes.

Weeknight Minestrone

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 6 loosely packed cups coarsely chopped kale or escarole
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 14.5 oz can ceci (garbanzo) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2- to 1-inch thick parmesan rind, plus grated parmesan for serving
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the next 6 ingredients (garlic through green beans) and cook (sweat, don’t brown) until onions are translucent (about 6-8 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes, or until it starts to brown and become fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the kale, potato, ceci beans, basil, oregano and parmesan rind, reduce to a simmer, cover partially, and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the rind and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Serve topped with grated parmesan.

  1. Allison [Haute Box]

    February 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Nice to see you back in the kitchen!

  2. Kimt

    February 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    So glad you are back. I can only imagine the time this took…can’t wait to try it. Looks yummy.

  3. Ellen

    February 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Glad to see you’re back in action!

  4. fresh365

    February 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Oooh is he a cutie!I am putting low expectations on my cooking time come May, but I am glad to hear you are finding your way back!

  5. cathy

    February 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    So glad you are back online with us–so happy about Caleb. Looking forward to meeting him in person!!!!

  6. molly

    February 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    oh, hurrah!! you’ve been on my mind of late, but i didn’t want to disturb. these early weeks and months are a blur of loveliness (if not in the kitchen :)

    the good news is, they get bigger, more self-suffficient, and they eat a LOT of noodles. with parmesan. which means you’ll always have a steady supply of rinds in your freezer. (we use them in soup all the time — magnificent).

    welcome back, to you and your fantastical new charmer :)

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