Psycho Cooker

Recipes + Travels + Reviews


I handle periods of transition with the finesse of a baby tolerating a dirty diaper.  Under the best circumstances, I squirm and make faces to reflect my discomfort.  I may whine a little bit.  Depending on the severity of the situation, I feel compelled to burst into tears.  One would hope that my tolerance for change would increase with experience; this does not seem to be the case.  Under my critical observation, my improvements seem to be occurring at a rate that does not allow for functional changes. 
Currently, I am transitioning from the role of “life-long-student,” into the vastly unstructured environment of unemployment.  There are some advantages to this situation: free time, free time, free time.  There is also the dingy hope of an interview or better yet (gasp!) an actual job offer.  There are also some co-occurring problems: the highly pronounced anxiety that barges in when you don’t get the interview/job offer.  My coping strategy with these issues tends to involve falling back on comfortable, old routines, like cooking.  Alas, yet another soup recipe was born.
Minestrone is a time-honored tradition in my family, although I sort of took it in my own direction.  When I was little, I sort of dreaded it because of the presence of zucchini.  I would avoid the zucchini, and eat everything else I could, until my mom inevitably required that I finish it.  With a trembling hand, I would lift each spoonful of cold, neglected zucchini, and chew as quickly as possible to prevent gagging.
My “adult” palette has revised its opinion of zucchini, and I stand behind a firm recommendation of this soup.  This is a fairly traditional recipe, except that I included a good portion of tomato paste to give the broth a deep color and flavor.  I also cooked the pasta separately to prevent it from turning to mush, but this is matter of personal preference.  Overall, the soup was warm and comforting.  It had a round well-developed flavor from the garlic, herbs, and tomato paste.  Plus, it goes nicely with my favorite condiment: freshly grated Parmesan cheese.   I recommend the following progression:  cook the soup; drink a beer, eat a of soup bowl; drink another beer while eating another bowl; be happy.  But it’s just a suggestion (and please excuse the blurry photos).  
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 medium red skin potato, diced
6 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 small zucchinis, diced
Small cut pasta (cook separately)
Parmesan cheese for garnish
       Preheat a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and butter.
       Once the butter melts, add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Season with hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables become soft and translucent.
       Add the tomato paste, stirring frequently for two minutes, until very fragrant.
       Add canned tomatoes, broth, chickpeas, potatoes, and remaining seasonings. 
       Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
       Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add zucchini and cook for ten more minutes.
       Place cooked pasta in soup bowls and add soup.  Garnish with parmesan.  

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