Turn fall greens into soup, salsa verde
Although we tend to think of spring as the green season, with all the brave little shoots poking up through the ground and trees sporting their first leaves, fall is a pretty green time, too, especially in Sonoma County.
We have mounds of chards, kales, lettuces, collards, and herbs at our farmers markets, poblanos and other chiles are at their peak, and there are still plenty of green beans and zucchini.
How do we best use this abundance? Now that September’s heat wave is behind us, soup is a great option.
The soup can be frozen, too, so don’t let the quantity scare you off. If you will enjoy 4 or so servings of it, freeze half the soup before adding the salsa verde. It will keep well in the freezer for about 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and make a half batch of the salsa just before enjoying it. You’ll notice that many recipes for minestrone involve adding nearly all the ingredients at the same time. You can make a very good soup in this way, but I think this version is best when each ingredient is added at just the right time so that none will be overcooked. Some versions of minestrone are so thick that the ingredients merge with each other and it seems almost like a stew. This version is light and bright, with lots of variation in texture.
Like all versions of minestrone, this one is nearly infinitely versatile. Vegans can omit the cheese. Anyone who doesn’t eat pasta can simply not add it; you don’t need a substitute for it. Use whatever greens you have on hand as long as you adjust cooking times. For example, if you use kale or collards instead of spinach or arugula, add with the green beans, as both require longer cooking. To make a Mexican-inspired version, see the variation that follows the main recipe. For an additional layer of flavor, replace half the olive oil with bacon fat.
Green Minestrone with Italian Salsa Verde
Makes 8 to 10 servings
½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large white or yellow onion, cut into small dice
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly washed and very thinly sliced
— Salsa Verde, recipe follows
8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
— Kosher salt
1½ pounds small new potatoes, peeled and quartered
10 cups homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 cups, approximately, cooked cannelini beans
6 ounces small dried pasta, such as small shells or ditalini
8 ounces small Blue Lake green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
1 pound small zucchini, cut into medium julienne
8 ounces small spinach leaves or small-leafed arugula
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into very thin diagonal slices
— Grated zest of 1 lemon
— Black pepper in a mill
1 small-medium chunk of Laura Chenel Tome or similar aged goat cheese
Pour the olive oil into a large soup pot set over medium-low heat, add the onion and leeks and sauté gently until soft and fragrant, about 20 minutes; do not let the vegetables brown.