March 20, 2010

This is Alice Waters‘ Minestrone Soup from The Art of Simple Cooking which is, indeed, so simple and yet so good. Definitely make a double or triple batch as it keeps well, just gets better with age, and totally hits the spot throughout the week for a quick lunch or totally comforting dinner (with some toasted baguette and tapenade!)  The trick is to cook the soffrito until it is really golden and then the soup sings.

Before I get into the recipe itself, let me just say that there are some incredible dried beans on the market these days. I have found the most incredible varieties, some even locally grown. They are so beautiful it almost seems a shame to cook them. See if you can find them since a) we need to keep heirloom varieties alive, and b) they make cooking that much more pleasurable. As Anne Michaels said in one of her brilliant books, “make beauty a necessity and make necessity beautiful,” or something close to that. You catch the drift. So here’s to the beauty and necessity of a really good bowl of soup. It can heal the world.


1 cup of dry cannellini or other beans, like the calypso beans above, soaked overnight

This will yield 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cooked beans. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Heat in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat:

1/4 cup olive oil


1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

Cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Add:

4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped

5 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons salt

Cook for 5 minutes longer. Add, and bring to a boil:

3 cups water or vegetable stock

When boiling add:

1 leek, diced

1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

Cook for 5 minutes, then add:

2 medium zucchini, cut into small dice

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. Add the cooked beans, along with:

1 cup bean cooking liquid

2 cups of kale or chard, coarsely chopped

Cook for 5 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more bean cooking liquid. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve in bowls, each one garnished with:

2 tsps extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp grated parmigiano (which I don’t add but the kids like it!)

photo credit: Rebekah Richardson-Duffy


February 27, 2010

tapenade, vegan tapenade, homemade crostini, crackers, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

Did you know that most traditional tapenade has anchovies in it? I naively bought some tapenade in one of my favourite stores and promptly wolfed it down on really nice home-made crostini. I decided I really like tapenade. So the next time I had a craving I decided to make it. I had olives. I had salt. What else could you need? Well, after going through 5 or 6 recipe books I soon realized that you need anchovies! Of course, you don’t need anchovies. It’s just that, as I said, most traditional tapenade has anchovies in it. So I modified the recipe and now I love it even more!

The other thing I should say here is that 2 of the things I found particularly  difficult about going vegan were breakfast and snacks. Breakfast was often milk-based, as it is for many of us with few apparent alternatives. And snacks were usually really cheesy because cheese is so good and so easy to grab on the go, or nibble on before dinner, or stick on a piece of toast (one of my childhood favourites). I’ll tell you about my breakfast routine later. As for snacks, I’ve discovered the joys of things like hummous and tapenade and other vegan delights.

Here’s the recipe which I’ve doubled for you since it’s too good and too convenient to make just one batch.

1 cup black olives (get really good quality ones like Silver Leaf Kalamata Pitted in extra virgin olive oil)

2 tbsps capers, rinsed and drained

2 garlic cloves (or more depending on your tolerance for garlic)

2 or 3 springs of thyme, leaves only

1 tsp brandy

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Throw it all into a food processor and blend until you get the consistency you like. Let it sit at room temperature for awhile so the flavours meld. Spread it on really yummy homemade crostini and snack away.