Saturday, March 14, 2009

Swiss Chard and Cannelini Bean Soup

Being on Facebook has turned out to be a fun way to socialize. It also has the potential to be a huge time waster if you let it, and there are days I find myself using it to procrastinate doing other, more useful activities. But for the most part, I find it an easy way to stay in touch with people I may not be in as frequent contact with otherwise. It has also allowed me to find people I haven't talked to for many years, reconnect, and learn about their lives. Even the seemingly mundane details can sometimes be interesting, and you can find out little intricacies you have in common with someone.

There are, of course, the naysayers who exclaim things like, "Whatever happened to picking up the phone and having an actual conversation?" These seem to be the same folks who don't embrace technology in general, or maybe just don't have enough friends to warrant a Facebook page, and are secretly envious. Let's be real - I have 206 Facebook friends. If not for Facebook, I would be in regular communication with maybe 25% of them, and less frequently with another 25%. And, no, not all 206 of these people are my BFFs. There are probably a good handful that I wouldn't otherwise have any interest in if it weren't for folks just trying to get their friend numbers up. But, I've had lots of pleasant surprises along the way. For example, connecting with a childhood friend who informed me of an epic-sounding bike ride her Dad is doing that I am now planning to do this summer (the D2R2). Or finding out about one of my favorite musicians who was in town because of a friend's status, and then making plans to go to it with her.

One of my favorite recent surprises, was finding out my youngest cousin, Stephanie, has taken an interest in cooking. It's funny because although there is a 20 year age difference between us (yikes! I just had to do the math twice to be sure this was right), I have discovered we have quite a bit in common. She actually came across my blog because of a Facebook interaction I had with another of our cousins. This resulted in her making one of my recipes and then passing a favorite soup recipe of hers onto me. I have since made it twice. According to Stephanie, this soup is called Minasta and it is one her mom (my Italian auntie - the only real cook in the family) makes regularly. I did a search on line and couldn't find anything by that name, but did find one called "Minestra" that is similar. So, perhaps as it's gotten passed down through the family, both the recipe itself and its name has morphed a bit.

The best thing about this soup is its simplicity. There are no spices, except for garlic, salt and pepper, but it is healthy, filling and comforting, like a cousin to a chicken noodle soup, without the chicken. Twice, I have fed it to hungry cyclists and got a lot of positive feedback, but I need to take that with a grain of salt since they will pretty much eat anything that is made for them after a long, hard ride.

"Minestra"
1 large bunch of swiss chard, chopped (kale or escarole could also be used)
1 medium onion chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tblsp olive oil
1 15 oz. can white cannelini beans
4-6 cups veggie broth (a non tomato base one like No-chicken broth is best)
1/2 to 1 cup of uncooked brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium heat and sautee the onion, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard and sautee for a few more minutes.
2. Add broth. (The amount of broth you use will depend on the amount of rice you are going to include in the next step- the more rice, the more broth you will need. ) Let this simmer on low heat for about an hour. This allows all the flavors to blend.
3. Add the rice and simmer for 40 minutes. You may find you need to add more liquid if it gets too thick. The amount of liquid you add will depend on your desired consistency.
4. Add cannelini beans, salt and pepper. Let cook another 10 minutes until beans are heated through.

6 comments:

Rebecca said...

This hungry cyclist thought it was great! Thanks fr sharing, Michelle!

Rebecca said...

oops... sorry, i just noticed i spelled your name wrong. ;)

Patricia said...

I'll definitely be making this-it sounds good and the best thing is it sounds sdo easy!
MOM

Jason C Brendel said...

Hello.. Im Italian, Im a chef, Im very interested in this recipe, My Goopa, made something similar to this, but totally different, Im searchin hi and low for the orgins of Minasta or however you spell it.. please contact me asap!!! ciao!

Michele said...

Hi Jason, I'm sorry it took me so long to post back. I'm not even sure you'll get an alert to let you know I've written back. I am going to contact my cousin to see if I can get her Nana's real recipe and I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

Michele, I think maybe we are related! My Grandparents made Minasta and I am making some now!

Email me at tigger9408@aol.com

Thanks, Laurie