Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spring Minestrone Soup

After the cold winter, spring is a real welcome time of the year. Finally I am not restricted to the squash and the root vegetable family. The beautiful flowers and the colorful vegetables have filled the grocery store shelves. There are so many options that it is hard to decide on what I should cook. Hence, the idea of a spring minestrone soup seemed exciting, to enjoy a bit of all the bounty that the season has to offer.

Today I used  asparagus, baby artichokes, zucchini, cremini mushrooms, button mushrooms, and Yukon gold potatoes. The potatoes gave the soup some body and the mushrooms contributed to providing a texture contrast. With a dollop of fragrant basil pesto and a generous shaving of Parmesan cheese, it is a really delicate, flavorful and satisfying soup. Along with a fresh mozzarella and tomato panini, it made a wonderful  Sunday night supper.

For those of you who are intimidated by prepping artichokes,  here is a link to the Ocean mist site , which has a how to video. Unlike their larger cousins, baby artichokes are really easy to prep and they are almost all edible.

Spring Minestrone Soup

3 baby artichokes, prepped and cut into quarters
6 stalks of thick asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
3 white button mushrooms (large ones), cut into sixths
1 large Yukon gold potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 leek, white part only, finely minced
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and, finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 cups or more vegetable stock or water

1. Heat a heavy dutch oven with olive oil over medium high heat. Add the leeks, onion, garlic and chili flakes and saute till the onion and leeks are translucent. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the chopped tomatoes.

2. When the potatoes are partially cooked, add the zucchini and the mushrooms and salt and continue to simmer till the potatoes are almost completely cooked but still hold their shape. Add the artichokes and cook for another few minutes till they are tender. Finally add the asparagus and simmer for 3 minutes more till the asparagus is tender but crisp. If at anytime during the cooking process, the broth had reduced too much, add more stock or water, a quarter cup at a time. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper accordingly.

3. Serve with a dollop of basil pesto and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

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