It really goes to show you, it is best to wait for summer to enjoy such fruits. Its just that, I could smell their sweet fragrance as I passed them in the aisle and thought to myself, Oh my! What a delightful mid-winter snack! A fresh nectarine! Their aroma was sweet, but the texture was all wrong, as if they had been simultaneously softened and dried on the inside, no juice dribbling down my chin and elbows. It had that quality shared by the flesh of many apples, a chalky texture with no crisp juiciness. Anyway, I took no more than three bites. What can you do with such a fruit? Perhaps see if Shiloh would take a stab at it? I don't imagine I can fool her either. I can't believe I fell for it. A nectarine in January, Psshhhh . . .
Well this is an important message about Seasonal Living, one of my favorite topics, but secondary to the purpose of this post. THIS POST IS ALL ABOUT MINESTRONE. Minestrone means, "Big Soup" in Italian (according to Alice Waters) and it is not surprisingly she who I get this recipe from. I chose to make this soup because I am trying out as many of her recipes as possible. Why hers? Because I really enjoy her philosophy of simplistic, wholesome, artistic cooking that treasures each ingredient, never over-doing anything. It also stresses using the freshest ingredients available, which often means Local!
Another cool aspect of her cookbook is that it makes it very clear that there are really only a few basic combinations of ingredients that one needs to be familiar with in order to make a large variety of dishes. So I think that is awesome and after trying her very simple recipe for Carrot Soup (which was SO delicious), I now venture on to the Minestrone. These two recipes, and a recipe for Chicken Broth are the only three listed under the "Soups and Broths" section of the cookbook. The rest listed in the end of the book are variations upon the very simple bases that make these soups so good. It is genius!
Currently, I have the beans soaking and some dough for bread rising. I haven't started anything else yet, but I will be making the "Winter" version of her Minestrone which actually calls for turnips, potatoes and cabbage instead of the standard zucchini, tomatoes and spinach which is described as the summer version. I am deciding to not forgo the spinach in favor of cabbage, however, because I couldn't part with it once I started thinking about it floating around in my soup. Plus, we need some greens even in winter/especially in winter.
There is an exciting addition to the bread this time, since it was somewhat dense (perhaps due to over-rising and over-kneading) last time I am following the recipe's optional suggestion of adding dry milk to the sponge. In an interesting twist of which Matthew will not be privy to (unless of course he reads my totally public, published on the internet for all to read blog, of course) there will be a necessary substitution of goats milk for the powdered milk. Whole Foods did not have regular powdered milk, only powdered goat milk, yea . . . I will refrain from going on about Whole Foods at the moment since they are still in my favor despite the nectarine which so quickly fell out. I think it will be good, anyway. It sort of smells like parmesan cheese though. I am a little nervous about Matthew actually becoming upset with me about this substitution due to his strong aversion to anything, "goat" but something tells me I could be on the verge of a great discovery and can't afford to not take this risk. Plus, I think its sort of funny. Actually, I really hope he doesn't find out. Dry milk, anyway, is supposed to add lightness and texture to the dough that might otherwise be heavier and grainier. (Still following the Tassajara Recipe)
Let's take a moment to dwell on an observation I've made in regards to Goat Products, and I'd like feedback on this . . . Why do so many people dislike them? In my experience as a server I've noticed that predominately males dislike Goat Cheese in particular. Matthew despises it. What gives? (insert acting cool face) I've also observed many men liking Goat Cheese, so I don't understand the occasional, yet often enough to be noteworthy aversion. This is something I've wondered about for a while now. What about women? Occasionally women I waited on didn't like it. Less often but always an interesting case. I realize this is ridiculous now but I just think its suspicious that anyone wouldn't like goat cheese. But, to digress even further, there are many things that some people may find offensive and the fact thereof offends other people! (not sure I used "thereof" correctly) I bet there are even people who are offended that people are offended that people are offended by something. Perhaps even the people themselves who are originally offended, and so forth do many arguments continue onwards. Here I am, waxing philosophical about this silly little question, I promise I did not introduce it for that purpose. It is a Friday afternoon and I am "firing on all cylinders" to borrow a phrase from the Gioia's. I am also sort of acting cool so I'm going to back off.
Back to Minestrone! I just noticed the beans had been boiling over for the entire duration of my goat-cheese-rant but I think they will be alright. This recipe called for a white bean or cranberry bean. I could only find Cannellini, Great Northern and Navy Beans (which are all white beans, no cranberry beans to be found) and I went with Great Northern simply because they had the highest Andi Score, which is a very interesting thing to look into. Pasta is another addition which Ms. Waters makes optional. I chose to get some just in case, at least for the second serving if not the initial and went with orecchiette, a small ear-shaped and thus-named pasta. The pasta and the beans are both cooked separately and then added close to serving time to avoid getting overdone.
Anyone who has been reading my writing up until now will notice I have a severe tendency to indulge in hyphens and parenthesis. I really like them. I will defend the dependance upon hyphens as irrevocably instilled by the reading of Martin Heidegger during my senior year of college (I may have mentioned and apologized for this before) and the parentheses on the inability to add footnotes (as far as I know) in a blog. That doesn't really justify it though, does it? Well, I just like parentheses too. I tend to think in various voices, constantly checking myself. This whole paragraph should be a footnote. I'd actually like to blame the oh so sweet, J.D. Salinger for taking such artful liberties with his prose that a lasting impression could not help but be made upon this consciousness. I see that I am thoroughly reflective today and relatively lucid. I am on the cusp of completing George Eliot's, Middlemarch, and love it. It was tough getting going but SO worth it! And now this is apparently a literary blog. Love it. Love everybody, felt like giving the whole world a hug today. As they say in the South, "Have a Blessed Day!"