Cooking Together

Cooking Together: Soup’s On!

Soup’s on!   

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Soups are a satisfying addition to a menu. They can be attractive, nutritious and delicious. On a chilly winter day or evening, there is nothing as welcoming as the smell of hot soup to come home to!  

Most of us work and commute in overheated spaces, and soups can hydrate and nourish our bodies. Bean- or lentil-based soup, along with vegetables, can contribute significant nutrients to our dietary requirements. 

Photos by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.

The minestrone soup presented here with the addition of pesto is a traditional Italian vegetable soup (also known as Minestrone ala Genevese. Homemade pesto sauce that flavors this soup can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. The addition of a handful of pasta (or quinoa, for a gluten-free option) makes this soup a meal in a bowl!  

    Ingredients for Pesto:  

                                        1 cup firmly packed, chopped fresh basil leaves after removing stems

                                         ½ cup – 1/3 cup curly or broad leaf parsley, stems removed and chopped

                                         2 cloves chopped garlic    

                                         3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts           

                                         ¼ cup olive oil  

                                         ¼ teaspoon salt

                                         2 to 3 tablespoons water to facilitate blending the paste

       For the soup:   

                                      ½ cup kidney, pinto or navy beans, soaked in 2 cups of 

                                             water overnight or for 3 to 4 hours, then rinsed and drained

                                    Or 1 to 1¼ cups canned beans, rinsed and drained

                                       6 cups of water or vegetable broth

                                       2 tablespoons olive oil

                                       ¼ cup onion, finely chopped

                                       ¼ cup green or red bell pepper, finely chopped 

                                       2 cloves of garlic, minced

                                       ½ cup fresh or canned tomato, cut into small chunks

                                       1 cup carrots, cut into small cubes

                                       1 cup zucchini, cut into small chunks

                                       1 cup celery stalks, sliced thin

                                       ½ to ¾ cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes 

                                       ¼ cup uncooked, small orecchiette pasta or ¼ cup quinoa 

                                       2 to 3 tablespoons of home-made pesto sauce (instruction given below)

                                       1 teaspoon or to taste salt

                                       Freshly ground black peppercorn to taste

                                       Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional) 

First make the pesto using the above listed items. (I do not use Parmesan cheese as an ingredient to make my pesto sauce, so as to keep it vegan and also to prolong the pesto’s refrigerator shelf life.) 

Place all the pesto ingredients from the list – except for the water – into a jar of a blender or a food processor. Blend the ingredients together for a few minutes to form a smooth paste, adding a couple of spoonsful of water if needed to move the blades. Transfer pesto into a jar and set it aside. You will only need a few tablespoons for the soup.  Rest of the pesto can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or frozen for a longer time to be used in a pasta dish or in a future soup. 

Bring the water or vegetable stock to a boil in a large soup pot. Since the soup has many vegetables, it can create its own broth, so you do not need the soup stock, necessarily. Add the rinsed and drained beans. Allow the mixture to boil again, then turn down the heat and allow the beans to simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes while preparing the vegetables. If you are using canned beans, simmer them just for a few minutes, long enough to be thoroughly heated.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and pepper. Sautee them for two minutes and then add the garlic. Stir fry for two minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes.  Continue to stir for several minutes, then add rest of the vegetables from the list, reserving the pesto. Add the sauteed vegetables to the simmering beans and cook them together for 20 minutes. Next, add the optional pasta or quinoa, if you want a thicker soup, and cook for additional 5 minutes. Then add the pesto, salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for a few minutes so that everything is well blended. Lastly, taste the soup to adjust flavors adding more water if necessary.  

Serve the soup, along with a bowl of Parmesan cheese and a some pesto for those who want additional flavors.  Serve the soup with crackers, croutons, bread or pasta – or just by itself!                

 Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Co-op at 3930 Judah St., in the Outer Sunset District, Green Apple Book Store in the Richmond District and Rainbow Grocery Co-op in the Mission. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and shares her recipes via videos on YouTube.

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