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La Belle Cuisine
Tom Colicchio’s Summer Minestrone
The New York Times
Dining & Wine Archives
the third of eight columns by Tom Colicchio, the chef and
an owner of Craft
and Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan. They are
being written with Florence
looks like summer. And it tastes like summer. But the way I make
reflects my philosophy of cooking.
I try to bring new freshness to dishes like this one that are so familiar to
most of us.
I also think cooking — and cooks — should be flexible. Take
something as simple
as a soup, even one that is thought of as a cold-
weather dish, and go on from there.
Ask yourself what else it can become.
You can serve the soup hot, right away, or chill it to serve cold later.
can be a base for other dishes.
It can be a sauce for pasta, something we do at Gramercy Tavern, or a
for braising fish. It can be a side dish for meat. We serve it with
lamb loin, but
lamb shanks would also be good. You could even use it for
This is the only time of year I'll make this dish, when the vegetables in it
their peak. It takes advantage of a lot of locally grown produce like
and favas and also fresh basil and tender heads of young
escarole, which you can
find in the best condition and with the best flavor
and variety only from now until
the end of summer.
The soup is flexible because the list of ingredients isn't fixed. If you
can't find something on the list here, skip that item or substitute
something similar. Right
now there are lots of fresh beans on the market,
like flageolets. You could add
them. If you like, at the very end you can
add some peeled, diced ripe tomato.
important to include the escarole, however. It adds a certain bitterness and
gives character to the mixture.
Greenmarket and certain farms that supply my restaurants, I know
vegetables that are fresh and full of flavor. Home cooks might have to
out of their way for ingredients like these because what is in the local
super- market probably cannot compare. But it's worth making an effort and not
com- promising. The flavor depends on it.
this: The dish is a lot of work. It's easier in the restaurant because we
have prep cooks to do all the dicing. We cut everything uniformly and very
I like the look of it that way. You can go larger, but please, not
too large. And the vegetables look best when they're chopped by hand, not in
a food processor.
hardest part is finding a big, heavy pot. It has to hold at least six
got one, add the ingredients gradually, so the oil in the pot maintains
same temperature throughout. Add them too quickly and the temperature will
drop and some of the vegetables will have to cook too long as you bring the
back up. They'll get mushy.
I cook the
fresh shell beans separately because they take longer. The peas, fava beans
and green and wax beans are also done separately, shocked in ice water,
aside and added at the last minute so they keep their color.
The soup is
finished with well-seasoned vegetable stock. For that you take coarsely
chopped onion, fennel, celery, carrots and leeks and simmer them about 20
minutes in water, then add aromatics like fresh thyme, tarragon, basil and
bay leaves. Cook everything another few minutes, then strain it. You don't
need any fat. Fresh stock
is so easy, why would anyone use a bouillon cube
Once the soup
is done, you could refrigerate it overnight or up to a few days and serve it
cold. In that case, it's best to wait to cook and chill the fava beans,
peas, green beans and wax beans, and add them, along with basil and olive
oil, and even some tomato if you like, just before serving.
To serve the
soup hot you might want to add more stock. Cooked macaroni would also be
good in it. Or you might drain off most of the liquid — reserve it to use
for another purpose — and reheat the vegetables in a sauté pan with cooked,
filled pasta, like tortellini or ravioli.
You could also
drain off most of the liquid and replace it with some rich chicken,
lamb jus. Then you can reheat it to serve alongside roasted meat or
or to use as a bed for braised meat like lamb shanks.
is great for braising fish. You simply spoon some into a shallow baking
dish, top it with fillets of seared fish and bake them 10 to 15 minutes. You
have a one- pot dish, fish and vegetables.
shellfish, you could add shucked clams and their juice to the soup, making
it something like a chowder. Or you could drain off the liquid, use it for
steaming open clams or mussels, and then put back the vegetables just before
But the real
delight for me is the freshness of the soup. There's no reason you
keep the freshness and the color no matter how you use it.
Look into your
pot, with all the bright vegetables and fresh herbs, and breathe
in the rich
aroma. This is food at its best.”
Time: 1 1/2
cranberry beans, shelled
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 pound fava beans, shelled and peeled
1 pound peas, shelled
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and
cut in 1-inch lengths
1/2 pound wax beans, trimmed and
cut in 1-inch lengths
1 stalk celery, trimmed
2 leeks, rinsed and trimmed
1 medium onion, peeled
1 small bulb fennel, trimmed
3 medium carrots, peeled
2 medium zucchini
1/2 medium eggplant
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 to 6 cups vegetable stock
1 medium head escarole, trimmed and
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed.
cranberry beans in a saucepan, add cold water to cover generously and simmer
until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
blacken skin of pepper over open flame, peel, core, rinse, pat dry and cut
in small dice. Set aside.
3. Fill a
large bowl with water and plenty of ice. Bring a pot of salted water to a
boil, add fava beans and peas and boil 6 minutes. Add green beans and wax
beans, and cook 3 minutes longer. Drain vegetables, and place in ice water.
When cold, drain again and set aside.
4. Cut celery,
leeks, onion, fennel, carrots, zucchini and eggplant in uniform small dice,
keeping vegetables separate.
5. Heat 3
tablespoons olive oil in an 8- to 10- quart pot. Add garlic and about a
third of the celery, leeks, onion, fennel and carrots, taking care to
maintain oil at a slow sizzle. Season with salt and pepper. Continue adding
these vegetables gradually so oil keeps sizzling, seasoning as you go. When
all have been added, continue cooking 3 to 5 minutes.
zucchini, eggplant and reserved red pepper gradually, so slow cooking in pot
is maintained. Keep seasoning with salt and pepper. When all these
vegetables have been added, stir in tomato paste and enough stock to cover
vegetables. Bring to a simmer.
escarole, and cook about 6 minutes, until tender. Stir in cranberry beans
and thyme. If serving immediately, add fava beans, peas, green beans, wax
beans, basil and remaining olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt
and pepper if needed. To serve later, fill sink to depth of six inches with
cold water and ice, and place pot in sink to stop cooking. When cool, set
aside or refrigerate. When ready to serve, add fava beans, peas, green beans
and wax beans, basil and remaining olive oil, and reheat to simmer before
Yield: 6 or
“Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking.
it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of
the work is
if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it
is quite hopeless to
expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.”
~ Auguste Escoffier, as quoted
in 'The Pat Conroy Cookbook'
Garden Vegetable Minestrone
Ground Beef Minestrone with
Minestrone with Sweet Sausage
Index - Soup Recipe Archives
Basic Stock Recipes
Recipe Archives Index