With winter’s cold, snow and ice upon us, there is a way to nourish the soul and body. What can be done to chase away the winter blues? Try the warmth and heartiness of a hot soup. Here in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina the favorite cold weather soup is Brunswick stew. Everyone seems to have their own recipe and there is a constant fight over the origins of Brunswick stew. Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina all lay claim to this American original.
In many parts of the world there are traditional soups that are eaten during the winter months; besides warming you on the inside the long cook times warm the kitchen. In Russia, famously known for Siberia, hearty borscht is a necessity not only to warm but also to supply the calories needed for the body to function at lower temperatures. The Eastern Ukraine favors their borscht packed with cabbage, potatoes, and pork. Ted Allen on The Food Network show, “The Best Thing I ever Ate”, extols this soup as “making you strong like bull”. In France there’s a rich onion soup with Gruyere cheese and toasted French bread. In America you will find many regional soup classics such as cioppino from San Francisco, clam chowder from New England and that creole classic from New Orleans: seafood gumbo. Families far and wide sit down during the winter months and enjoy a bowl of steaming hot soup.
My Nana used to make the best escarole and bean soup. It was a very simple soup with a few ingredients. She also made classic southern Italian minestrone, packed with vegetables and ditalini pasta. Since moving to Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina I have embraced local ingredients and availability. This has become an exercise in balancing the fresh local ingredients and still retaining the authentic flavors of tradition. Not able to locate escarole for my Nana’s escarole and beans, I noticed there are always collard greens available. So I thought “why not?” I developed this recipe using fresh local ingredients and family heirloom recipes that date back who knows how many generations. It’s an easy and quick soup to prepare, and wonderful to enjoy with a loaf of crusty Italian bread.
Fuquay-Varina Collard Minestrone by Joseph V. Fasy
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse sea salt and ground pepper
1 bunch collard greens, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh basil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound dry white beans, soaked overnight
1 can diced tomatoes, in juice
½ # ditalini pasta
Grated Locatelli Romano, to finish
1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium.
2. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.
3. Add collard greens, basil, and crushed red-pepper. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.
4. Add all the beans to the pan, as well as tomatoes with juice and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, until collards are tender, 15-20 minutes.
5. Add ditalini pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes more.
6. Season with salt and pepper; serve with grated Locatelli Romano, if desired.
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