Spring Vegetable Minestrone

I like to think of this soup as a transitional dish; still warming and satisfying on a chilly day, but light and full of the first green vegetables of the spring season.  This easy to make version of minestrone is garnished with a little Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  You could add some chopped, fresh soft herbs as well to enhance the green character of the soup.  The beans are cooked completely and added to the soup with the chopped vegetables.  I didn’t include pasta in my minestrone (which may raise questions of authenticity), but you certainly could; use small shapes such as shells or tubes, and cook them before adding, at the last moment, to the soup.  With some good bread, this soup will make a great lunch or light dinner.

Spring Vegetable Minestrone
(makes about 8 servings)
Heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender.  Do not allow the mixture to brown.  Add:
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
5 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
Cook for 5 minutes longer.  Add, and bring to a boil:
3 cups homemade (or canned, low-sodium) chicken stock
When boiling, add:
2 small leeks, diced
Simmer for 10 minutes then add:
1 cup peas
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked cannellini or borlotti beans (from 1 cup dried beans)
1 cup reserved bean cooking liquid (if using canned beans, simply add additional stock or water)
Simmer for another 5 minutes then add:
2 cups spinach leaves. coarsely chopped
Simmer until the spinach has wilted, then check and correct the seasoning of the soup.  Add additional liquid if it seems too thick.  Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems and serve the soup, each bowl garnished with:
A drizzle of olive oil
A tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan cheese
(Minimally adapted from “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters)



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