Gazpacho isn’t the only soup for summer; minestrone estivo deserves a spot on the summer menu. Minestrone tends to be a hearty soup, one step removed from being a stew. But minestrone estivo, which translates to summer vegetable soup, is a lighter, more refreshing option for the hotter months. Don’t be surprised if you ask for another bowl of soup over another beer.
This recipe comes from The Vegetarian Silver Spoon, the newest offering from Phaidon’s popular Silver Spoon collection of cookbooks. Like the rest of the Silver Spoon books, the new cookbook is a compilation of Italian recipes, this time centering around meatless, and sometimes vegan, appetizers, sides, entrees and more. The minestrone estivo, served warm, uses fresh summer vegetables like green beans and Swiss chard to utilize the summer’s bounties. If you’re looking for an extra hit of umami, and aren’t vegan, make the minestrone with a Parmesan rind — a tip that can be applied to all soups.
Summer Vegetable Soup
• 4 plum tomatoes
• 1 3/4 cups shelled fresh borlotti beans
• 3 spring onions, thinly sliced into rounds
• 3/4 cup brown rice
• 10 1/2 oz potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
• 10 1/2 oz green beans, sliced
• 1 bunch Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
• Leaves from 2 sprigs marjoram
• Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
• Leaves from 1 bunch parsley
• Leaves from 2 sprigs mint
• 3 tablespoons wild fennel or fennel fronds
• 4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes and blanch for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain them and let cool slightly. Peel and seed the tomatoes, then chop the flesh.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the borlotti beans and 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 40 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, the spring onions, and the rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, green beans and chard, and cook for about 20 minutes more, until the vegetables are tender.
3. In the meantime, in a food processor, combine the marjoram, thyme, parsley, mint, fennel, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Process until well combined.
4. Let the soup cool slightly and serve warm, or let cool completely and serve at room temperature. Top each serving with a spoonful of the herb pesto.
Note: Once it has cooled, you can enrich the soup with 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (yeast flakes) or wheat germ. Add 1 tablespoon gomasio to the pesto instead of the salt. For a vegetarian (no longer vegan) version, add a Parmesan rind to the soup; remove and discard it before serving. If you like, you can replace the brown rice with 7 ounces small pasta shapes; add them to the soup 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
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