Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Minestrone Chiaro

     Italian Clear Broth Minestrone!
     I published a classic Venetian Minestra recipe a few years ago.  The Venetian Minestra recipe was well over 600 years old.  Lemon was the key flavor in that soup and unlike most modern Minestrone, pasta was not added to the soup.  I have also published several Italian Zuppa recipes.  Sometimes pasta is considered to be an integral garnish for a few of those soups.
     This Italian soup name topic matter brings up an interesting question.  What is the difference between Zuppa, Minestra and Minestrone?  Many folks in America assume that the answer has something to do with whether pasta is added to the soup, but this is a misconception.  Basically, the answer to the question is regional or social class.
     A few hundred years ago, Venice was a place where the elite dignitaries of all Europe used to gather for extravagant social events.  Minestra that was served to dignitaries during that age gained a classy reputation.  Minestra also predates Zuppa and Minestrone.  Therefore, if a refined soup is served in a classy setting, it is usually called Minestra.  On the flip-side, a hearty seafood soup made in a working class fishing village needs no fancy name, so the soup is modestly called a Zuppa.
     Minestrone is an old variation of Minestra.  The word "Minestra" in a culinary context means "to administer nutrition or revitalize by means of ingesting broth."  Minestrone can be classy or it can be a simple home style soup, so in a way, Minestrone crosses many social barriers.
     Minestrone that is enriched with beans is usually considered to not be as refined or lower in class than a minestrone that is enriched with squash, root vegetables or tomato.  This is because beans happen to have the reputation of being poor people food.  Even so, a Minestrone that is enriched with beans often has nostalgic value in a refined classy setting, because this soup reflects upon hard times or rustic country style fare.  In recent years, modern health cuisine has featured beans as fine dining fodder, so even beans are not always a true indicator of how classy a Minestrone is or is not.
     Today's Minestrone Chiaro could be considered to be a high class soup, because both beans and clear broth soups are en vogue with elite members of the dining public.  On the other hand, today's Minestrone Chiaro is just a simple hearty nutritious clear broth soup that regular working folks would like on a chilly day.  Once again, Minestrone crosses all social boundaries, even when this soup is made with a clear broth!          
     I apprenticed for a few years with Italian chefs when I was learning my trade.  There was no such thing as a soup warmer in the best Italian kitchens that I worked in.  Soups were either heated to order or made to order.  Italian chefs prefer fresh crisp flavors, especially when it comes to soup.  
     Today's simple Clear Minestrone is a good example of how crisp and clean that a freshly made vegetable soup can be.  This simple Minestrone should be made to order and it only takes a little less than 15 minutes to make.  If this soup was to be kept warm in a soup warmer for a long time then it would completely lose its character and clarity.                          
     Ditali are small short tube shaped pasta.  Ditalini are just a little bit smaller than Ditali.  Ditali or Ditalini pasta are a classic choice for garnishing Minestrone of any kind.
     Minestrone Chiaro:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (1 large bowl of soup)
     This soup should be made shortly before it is served.
     Step 1:  Place 3 1/2 cups of clear chicken broth (bouillon or consommé) in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     *Extra broth is needed from the start, because this soup is rapidly boiled and some of the liquid will evaporate.
     Bring the broth to a boil.    
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of small diced carrot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small diced celery.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Boil the soffritto vegetables till they start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of ditali pasta.
     Stir the pasta in the broth as it starts to cook, so the pasta does not stick to the pot.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced zucchini.  (Remove the core and seeds.)
     Add 1 small portobello mushroom that is cut into thin wedges.
     Add 10 whole Italian Parsley leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Boil till the ditali pasta is halfway cooked.  (About 5 to 6 minutes.)
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 cup of small diced seeded plum tomato.
     Add 1/4 cup of rinsed canned cannellini beans or rinsed cooked cannellini beans.  (optional)
     Continue boiling till the ditali pasta is cooked al dente.
     *Check the level of broth.  If there is not enough liquid to cover the ingredients, then add some broth.  The finished volume should be 2 1/4 cups to 2 1/2 cups.  
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Stir the soup.
     Step 7:  Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese on the center of the soup.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     Minestrone Chiaro has a nice healthy fresh flavor.  This is a pretty looking Minestrone too! 

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