15 Sep 2010

Soup and Bread

Posted by annmcolford

Labor Day has come and gone, and so, it seems, has summer. Our weather turned cool again over the long weekend, prompting me to spend Monday making minestrone soup (to use up some of those great farmers market veggies in my fridge) and testing out a new bread recipe. I set a half-cup of dried navy beans (grown near Quincy, purchased at the White Trail farm stand there) in water to soak overnight before going to bed on Sunday and then assembled the rest of the soup early Monday afternoon. I checked out minestrone recipes from a handful of sources before settling on one from The Best of Food & Wine, a hardcover compilation from that magazine’s pages, published in 1993. (I think I found the cookbook on the closeout table at WaldenBooks back around 1994, during my brief career as a bookstore clerk.)

Like most soups, this one was something of an improvisation—sort of a variation on a theme. That’s part of what I love about soup. Soup does not follow rules; a soup recipe is more a suggestion than an inviolable formula. Soup adapts readily to seasonal availability. Soup making is more art than science, and it’s a satisfying activity for those of us who enjoy process as much as completion.

Online sources tell me that “minestrone” translates from the Italian as “big soup,” meaning a substantial and hearty soup or stew, but I find it interesting that the word shares the same Latin root as “minister,” with its sense of humble service. A big pot of steaming minestrone may seem humble when compared to flashier culinary creations, but it does yeoman service when it comes to linking people together over a meal.

Friends Cate and Ann came over and shared a soup supper on Monday evening, and then on Wednesday I brought the leftovers to my friend Stacy’s new food shop (Petunia’s Marketplace) when I went in to help out with a few tasks. She had just made a batch of lemon pesto, so we put a dollop of it on top of each bowl of soup, adding a lively citrus tang.

I’ve been playing with new bread recipes, as I mentioned, thanks to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Bread Bible. (Her Pie and Pastry Bible came highly recommended by local pastry chef Gina Garcia of Cake.) I borrowed it from the library to see if I want to spend the money for my own copy, and so far I’m thinking that’s a thumbs up.

Margherita pizza made at home

First thing I tried was an artisanal pizza dough topped with a freshly made tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves—classic margherita. It was incredibly delicious and didn’t take as long as I thought it might. After that came a basic sandwich bread, then a batch of beautiful, flaky scones. Next up: rye crackers.

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4 Responses to “Soup and Bread”

  1. I agree that with fall coming thoughts turn to soup. Soup is flexible in ingredients used and is a great place for beginning cooks to get comfortable improvising and being creative in the kitchen. Thanks, Ann.



  2. Thanks, Ellen — I will post the source recipe on here in the next couple of days, along with notes about my improvisation, just in case anyone’s interested in the details.



  3. Hi Ann,
    Just checking out your blog. While actually eating a piece of Margarita pizza…whole wheat crust with tomatoes and basil from my garden. Yum!



  4. Yay, Mary — thanks for dropping by! I’m gonna have to revisit that pizza recipe before all the fresh tomatoes are gone…



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