I love to cook not-written-in-stone recipes. Add a bit of this, a scrap of that, taste as you go, repeat.
For the batch of minestrone soup pictured in this post, I used celery, carrots, a bell pepper and potatoes that I had on hand and bought some parsnips and a turnip to reach the three pounds of mixed vegetables I wanted. In summer, I might add green beans, corn and fresh basil. Whatever vegetables you include, you will, however, want to add tomatoes. This is after all an Italian dish. This time, I used a jar of my roasted tomatoes that I prep in the summer, freeze and eat all winter. If you use fresh tomatoes, ideally, you would blanch, peel and seed them. I do this step only occasionally, I have to admit.
- Use vegetables you have on hand and that need to be eaten soon
- Add leftover cooked pasta or rice
- If you eat cheese and meat, toss in parmesan rinds or bones to add flavor, or any bits of leftover cooked meat
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In the winter, I use tomatoes that I've roasted and frozen in glass jars. I cut small tomatoes into halves or quarters, arrange them on a cookie sheet and roast at 275°F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they are softened and sweet. I then allow them to cook, pack them into jars and freeze them. These replace the need for canned tomatoes.
- 1 cup dried kidney beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 large bell peppers, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chillies
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms
- 4 cups roasted tomatoes (or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup of cooked bean water
- Soak beans for approximately 8 hours. Cook in a pressure cooker, slow cooker or pot on the stove.
- If using fresh tomatoes, in a perfect world, blanch and peel them. Bring a pot of water to a boil. On the bottom of each tomato, score an X. Boil the tomatoes for one minute, drain and immediately immerse in a bowl of ice water. Peel and dice.
- Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for a minute, stirring.
- Add spices and cook for a minute, stirring.
- Add mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes until the moisture is released.
- For fresh tomatoes, add and cook until they've broken down a bit, about 5 minutes. For roasted tomatoes, add and move on to the next step.
- Add the kidney beans, sweet potatoes, salt and just enough of the bean water to barely cover everything.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.