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Winter Minestrone

Weather: 36 degrees, above freezing… practically a heat wave!
What I’m listening to: nothing, I’m mourning Christmas music

It’s New Year’s resolution time. Truth be told, I’m not usually a resolution type of person. I can’t really explain it… it’s not that I don’t love to challenge myself and that I don’t love to grow. That’s not it. New Year’s resolutions are full of the greatest intentions, hopes to enrich our lives, and make us more healthy and happy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so public, like a promise to everyone you know (and now that I’m a blogger, the number of people I “know” has, well, expanded)? Perhaps is the fact that New Years resolutions are very often made to be broken, like an annual license to go back on your word? I’m sort of fond of keeping my word. Or it might simply be that I don’t want to move with the masses? Rebellious streak, eh? Like I said, I can’t really explain it.

So for 2013, I’m resolved to make some resolutions. I’m going to challenge myself, oh reluctant resolution-maker that I am. Kitchen resolutions, very public, very bold. First, I’m going to try fresh beets. All my life beets have been the one thing I have said that I don’t like to eat. The truth is, I’ve only ever had the canned ones, which remind me – quite dreadfully and fearfully – of salad bars in the 1980’s. Ghastly purple-tinged salads with canned beets. Bleh. I can do this. Second, I’m going to learn how to make a souffle. Gordon Ramsay would be proud. Or at least I’d like to learn to make a souffle that would make him proud. Third, I need to try making sushi at least once. It’s one of my absolute favorite foods and we have so much stunning fresh seafood here in the summer months. There’s no reason not to… except that I’m completely terrified. I’m sure it might fail. Sushi is an art. Have you seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi? It’s a revelation, especially if you love sushi. But, it’s also the most intimidating thing to anyone who might consider making sushi at home. But, fail or succeed, it’s time to conquer my fears.

For those of you who have resolutions to eat more vegetables, to make more wholesome, from scratch food, or to eat light, you’re going to really appreciate this Winter Minestrone packed with vegetables and flavor. And even if you don’t have any resolutions of the sort, you should still make this yummy soup. After Christmas, this tasted downright delicious to me, hearty and steaming, full of all the home-cooked goodness you hope for this time of year.

Be sure to check out the 20 Favorite Recipes of 2012! Happy New Year.

Hearty Winter Minestrone

Adapted from Ina Garten: Foolproof via [Crave by Random House|]

Yields: 8 servings

  • 2T olive oil
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2c butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2t fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 26oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 8c chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 15oz can cannellini beans, drained
  • 2c small pasta such as Ditalini, cooked al dente in salted water and drained
  • 8oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2c white wine
  • 2T pesto
  • crusty bread, for serving (we had a rosemary artisan loaf)

In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and bacon. Cook bacon until brown and crisp. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften and the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Simmer 30 minutes.

[This is a good time to boil and drain your pasta]

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans, cooked pasta, fresh spinach, white wine, and pesto. Stir to combine and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread.


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