This month’s RecipeReDux theme is “A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful,” which makes sense for November, because, you know, Thanksgiving. My immediate thought was minestrone soup. Now, for me, this memory is more of a late September/October memory than a Thanksgiving memory, but I’m thankful for it all the same.
I might have mentioned this in the past, but my favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot. It happens every fall. We build a hut, or sukkah, in the backyard and we eat our meals in it for a week. I remember having fun decorating the sukkah with lights, strings of beads, and the longest paper chains we could manage as kids. I remember hosting my class in the sukkah every year. School was only a block away from my house, so we’d make a special, mini field trip to my backyard, where my mom would be waiting with snacks. But for me, the most memorable part of this beautiful holiday was always the minestrone soup.
Sukkot happens at the beginning of the fall season. The later it happens during the year, the colder it is and the happier I am. My favorite memories are eating in the sukkah at night, being cold, trying to huddle closer together at the table for warmth. Then, my mom would bring out the first batch minestrone soup of the year (we lived on that stuff all fall and winter long), and we would delightfully hunker down over our steaming bowls of soup and drink up the warm deliciousness. This is one of my all time favorite food memories.
The minestrone soup is no longer a magical soup for me, now that I understand that my mom made it because it was ridiculously easy to put together, but it still holds those wonderful memories in it. I should note that my family calls it minestrone because that’s what it most resembles, but my mother is a Hungarian Jew who was just trying to find a soup all three children could enjoy, so it’s not the most authentic recipe. And that’s totally fine by me.
This soup calls for a couple of canned goods, some fresh veggies, and not a whole lot of time on the stove. Not only is it comfort food for me, but it’s a very dorm-friendly recipe, one that I plan on using all winter long. While there are some basic ingredients that make this soup what it is, there are also a number of optional additions that we’ve added in the past, depending on what we have on hand. Here I’ve made the most basic version, but I’ve also included a list of additions.
One thing to note is that there are no noodles in this minestrone. I don’t know why, but noodles in soup have never really appealed to me. They tend to feel like mushy blobs of nothing, so I leave them out. Growing up, we’d sprinkle croutons over the soup instead to give each bite a nice little crunch. Delicious.
What food memory are you thankful for?
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney or cannellini beans, drained
1 bay leaf
3 cups low sodium vegetable stock or water
2 dashes of cinnamon (trust me on this, crazy, but delicious!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped green beans
Another can of beans
Broccoli or cauliflower florets
1. Place a pot over a medium flame. Heat the olive oil in the pot, then add the onions. Sautee for about three minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are sweating.
2. Add in the garlic, carrots, parsnip, and celery. Stirring every so often, allow the vegetables to cook for 3-5 minutes. If you’re adding other vegetables (besides kale), you can add them in now as well. The whole kitchen should be starting to smell like soup already.
3. Add in the tomatoes, beans, bay leaf, vegetable stock, kale (if you’re using it), and cinnamon. Bring the whole mixture up to a simmer, and let it simmer until the vegetables are soft, at least 20 minutes.
4. When you’re ready to eat, remove the bay leaf, season to taste, and ladle out a nice big bowl of hot soup. Top with croutons, if desired, and serve immediately.