Post-Merriment Minestrone

Everyone knows tomorrow there will be resolutions aplenty.  Some may include a more healthful lifestyle, or maybe just a few more vegetables at mealtime.  Either way, this recipe can help.  Do yourself a favor and buy the ingredients today, so that come tomorrow you will be ready to make those resolutions a reality.

The reason to make this soup is the pistou (the Provençal cousin of italian pesto), which is ladled into this traditional vegetable soup, making it aromatic and rich in flavor.  This delicious recipe comes from Pasta & Co. – a legendary Seattle food shop, opened in 1981.  I grew up with Pasta & Co., so the flavors are familiar and comforting to me.  This recipe for Minestrone Genovese was published in 2002 by the original Pasta & Co. owner, Marcella Rosene, in a cookbook called Pasta & Co. By Request.  Rosene has a way of amplifying flavors in pure foods that elevates them to true loveliness.  I think you will find that this recipe, in particular, is just what the doctor ordered in the lull after December holidays.  It may even make you want to keep those pesky New Year resolutions!

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Minestrone Genovese

Makes 13 cups.  Will keep for five days, refrigerated.

 
Pistou Ingredients:
1/3 to 1/2 cup basil leaves, washed dried and finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, put through garlic press
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup orzo or melonseed pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
 
Soup Ingredients:
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into a 1/4 inch dice
1 cup celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 cups red potatoes, skins on and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup best-quality unflavored bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
10 grinds black pepper
Optional: Very small pinch saffron
2 cups water
1 (8-ounce) can kidney beans, well rinsed and drained OR 3 cups fresh green beans, washed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces including all juices
1/2 cup frozen peas or corn (add to soup frozen) – do not use if using fresh green beans (unless you incorporate fresh corn cut from the cob)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese, grated by hand at the table, to top

Preparation:

In medium bowl, whisk together basil, Parmesan, tomato paste, and garlic into a thick paste.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until it is incorporated.  Set aside.

Cook orzo in a large amount of boiling water until tender.  Drain well and fold into olive oil mixture.  Fold in Romano and set aside.

In a large soup pot, bring the 6 cups of water and the salt to a boil.  Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook 5 minutes more.  Add bell pepper, zucchini, bread crumbs, paprika, black pepper, and saffron (if desired) and cook 5 minutes more.

Turn off heat and ladle a couple of cups of the soup into orzo mixture.  Stir well and pour back into the soup pot.  Add the 2 cups of water, kidney beans, tomatoes, frozen peas or corn, and parsley.

Stir to mix.  Serve topped with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 Happy New Year!

What a Difference a Year Makes

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This week my baby turned one.  Her birthday coincides with the the New Year holiday; a time for fresh starts, moving forward, and reflection.

I find that I am always sentimental during the first anniversary of the days, hours, and minutes before any of my baby’s births.  I think about what we were doing “at this time last year.”  I try to imagine the impossibility of what it felt like not to have met the little person we have spent the last year loving.  I think of my labor and when the contractions started.  Were we at the hospital?  Were we at home still?  Was Nana here yet to take care of the boys?  I have been blessed with straightforward, lovely births, so this reminiscing evokes a feeling of love and empowerment (I know that I am lucky on this front).  These memories are something I treasure as a gift my children have given me.  I never knew I could be so strong as during the births of my children.  My last baby has just turned one and is moving out of babyhood.  She walks and climbs and is beginning to talk.  As I say goodbye to the birth chapter of life, it is with bittersweet feelings.  I hope to carry with me the strength I experienced in birth into my future adventures.

2012 draws to a close and I am struck by how different life feels this year versus last.  Last year we were in love with our newborn, wondering how we would get through the first days, let alone the year, as a family of five.  I think about how we were closer with some friends and alternatively more distanced from some family.  Poole Party of 5 did not exist.  We didn’t know who our next president would be.  What a difference a year makes…  I grew up with a phrase that my mom would tell me in times of discord.  She would say, “Make friends with change.”  Of course there is not a much truer sentiment, yet it drove me crazy.  Nothing stays the same.  We know this in our heads, but I believe it is harder for our hearts to accept.  I friend recently said, “Think back five years to what your life was…”  Well, we had a 6-month old little boy that we loved deeply, but were still getting to know.  We lived in a different house, in a different city.  We didn’t know what our family would become, or who our little guy would be.  One year is a blink.  Five years is a deep breath in and out…

While I was in labor with Tatum last year, the song playing on the iPod when she was born was “One Day” by Matisyahu.  It is such a powerful message for peace.  I love the imagery of my baby entering the world with such a hopeful message.  (I have linked to the video and copied the first verse lyrics below.)

Video Link (click here)

sometimes I lay
under the moon
and thank God I’m breathing
then I pray
don’t take me soon
cause I am here for a reason
sometimes in my tears I drown
but I never let it get me down
so when negativity surrounds
I know some day it’ll all turn around
because
all my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
for the people to say
that we don’t wanna fight no more
there’ll be no more wars
and our children will play
one day (x6)

As much as things change, we do have elements that continue, unmarred by the date on the calendar.  My wish for the future is peace and a time when “there’ll be no more wars / and our children will play”.  I don’t know if this will happen in my lifetime, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes.  I still wonder why I am here, but I know that one of my purposes was to be a mom.  To love my children and my husband with all that I have.  To give forgiveness when someone hurts me and to try not to do harm to others.  I’m not big on New Year resolutions; every year they are the same – dental floss more and exercise more.  But maybe a hope for peace is good too.