My sister HoosierRoots and I made the Garden Minestrone soup together on a Sunday in January during a Skype session. I thought it was quite successful – very delicious, as did my Dandy husband. There were some things that I want to remember to do again, and there were a couple of things that I might do differently next time.

Roots and I began the night before by putting the white beans to soak. I am glad that I used dried beans. Next time I might use even more. Then, on Sunday, we started by microwaving the first ingredients together, as per the directions. I can’t say that I have ever used the microwave for this step before. Instead I have always sautéed the onion and other flavorings together on the stove. But this worked quite well and was easy to do. I will try to remember to use this technique when preparing other dishes. I found that I did not have any red pepper flakes, and so I had to leave that out.

We stirred the ingredients into our slow cookers as directed in step 2 of the recipe. I found that I had 2 cups of leftover beef broth, and so I decided to use it up, combining it with the chicken broth. That meant the soup stock was made of one-third beef broth and two-thirds chicken broth along with the tomato sauce and flavorings. And I will say that it was especially delicious!

After the soup cooked for several hours, Roots and I again joined together for step 3. I had a yellow summer squash already, and so I used it instead of a zucchini. It was a bit more mature than I would have liked, and so perhaps I should have cooked it a little longer. At any rate, it seemed somewhat underdone in the end. I also wish I would have cut it into smaller pieces. I quartered it, as the recipe directed, but since it was too big, the pieces were not really bite size. Maybe, too, if the pieces had been smaller, the squash would have cooked more completely.

I was happy that I was able to find swiss chard at the grocery store. Actually, I realized as I began that I could not remember ever having cooked with swiss chard before. I washed it, cut out the central ribs, stacked the leaves, and sliced them as directed. That all went well and was not too difficult, and the swiss chard was wonderful in the finished soup – one of my favorite parts! I will definitely be using it again, although next time I will probably cut the slices in half across their width so that the pieces are more bite-sized. I did not put the pasta in, as I was trying to make the soup as low-carb as possible.

When the soup was finished I stirred in the basil, but as I did not have fresh, I used dried – about 2 teaspoons. Perhaps I should have added the dried basil earlier in the cooking – maybe way back at the beginning, but it tasted fine. If it were summer, I would have loved to have used fresh basil straight from my garden. In fact, as Roots has already pointed out, it really would be best to prepare this soup during the summer, when garden produce could be used. I served the soup with grated Parmesan cheese – a nice touch. The recipe also suggests serving it with extra olive oil, but I was not sure what to do with it, and so I did not do that. I wonder if one is supposed to just drizzle some on top of the soup after ladling it into the bowls. Anyway, the soup really was quite delicious and not too difficult. And I am sure that any number of other vegetables – whatever one had on hand – could be added.

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