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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Barley Minestrone Soup

I ate dinner at a friend’s house recently and gasped when she threw away the end rind of parmesan cheese. As a responsible and savvy foodie, I told her that next time she should stick it in her freezer for future use in soups and stews. I’m sure she thought I was crazy, but it’s something that I swear adds a hint of saltiness and depth while the dish simmers.

See the Parmesan rind in there?

Take this minestrone soup for example. Sure, it’s chock-full of vegetables, beans, and barley, but since I didn’t use any bacon or pancetta, it can lack some saltiness that can’t be replaced with just kosher salt. To replace that depth, I throw in a rind of Parmesan while the soup simmers which improves the flavors immensely. I’ve been making this soup for years and it’s a great way to get a lot of veggies and fiber.

Barley Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Fine Cooking – Fresh 2006
(serves 4)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups green cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup onion, diced
½ cup carrot, sliced into ¼-inch half moons
¼ cup celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
½ cup quick cooking barley
1 cup kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with their juices, rosemary, Parmesan cheese rind, ½ tsp salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the quick-cooking barley and kidney beans; simmer an additional 10 minutes. Remove rosemary sprig and Parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with slices of crusty bread.

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