Pssst – a secret . . .
Sometimes I don’t feel like eating my vegetables. Don’t tell my children or my parents, please, but sometimes, when my husband is out of town and the kids are having a “kid friendly” dinner, I’ll respectfully demure and fix myself a much more “high falutin'” meal – possibly a balogna and Pringle sandwich dressed with yellow mustard on spongy white bread – such a satisfying dichotomy of texture! Maybe I’ll have more of a taste for a tomato and Miracle Whip sandwich on toast – the piquant Whip plays delightfully on the tomato’s acidity! A peanut butter, honey and banana concoction is not out of the question – how resourceful – a meal and a dessert in one! Or even simple scrambled eggs with salt, pepper and a few slices of bacon (mmmm pig) – which seems to elevate the provincial egg to stratospheric levels.
Even having a bowl of cereal while standing by the kitchen sink isn’t taboo on these evenings. This is not because I don’t love food and don’t love cooking. I believe it to be an anthropological study in personal directives – more to the point, BECAUSE I CAN. One of the best rewards for getting older (and there aren’t hundreds) is that I can take control of my eating. No one is insisting that I finish all of my milk, eat my vegetables or forgo that extra bite of cake, except for maybe my bossy bathroom scale.
Very soon though, my body will tell me what it needs. In the case of these clandestine meals-of-questionable-repute, the very next day I’m craving vegetables. Grilled, braised, stewed, steamed, even boiled – it doesn’t matter, just the more the better. I think all day about having a spicy root vegetable curry for dinner, or a “garbage salad” filled with mixed greens, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, corn, peas and whatever else has gotten lost in the back of the produce drawer (as long as it’s still edible). A third option is this soup, which is chock full of beans, aromatics, greens and even a few slices of prosciutto here and there.
Since, even though I’m feeding a vegetable urge, it doesn’t mean I’m going to forget how good pig can be.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, white and green parts only, sliced
6 cups chicken broth
1 large potato, peeled and diced
4 stalks rapini (or broccoli rabe or broccolini) cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch lengths
4 large kale leaves, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then cut into half moons
1 10 oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 15 oz. can kidney or cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 slices prosciutto, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 small “squeeze” Taste #5 Umami Paste (about 1/2 tsp.) *see Note
2 c. smaller pasta, like ditalini or tubetti, cooked and drained
grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add onion and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.Add the garlic and the leek and sauté until fragrant. Pour in the chicken broth and then add all of the ingredients from the diced potato down to the Umami Paste. Cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure to double check the potatoes as although some vegetables are fine if they are still somewhat toothsome (carrots, green beans, broccoli) uncooked potatoes tend to be, borrowing a word from my kids, “yucky”.
As the soup is simmering, cook the pasta according to it’s packaging. When you deem the vegetables to be done to your liking, add the pasta, check the seasoning and then serve immediately with some grated parmesan cheese and a crusty Italian.
Bread. Not person.
*Note: Taste #5 Umami Paste is a combination of tomato paste, garlic, anchovy paste, black olives, balsamic vinegar, porcini mushrooms and parmesan cheese that gives a kick of savory flavor to any soup, stew or sauce. It can be bought online at Cardullos.com, and I believe it has been sold through Williams-Sonoma and Amazon in the past. I was able to find it at my little local gourmet shop, so you could always look into that type of store as well.