February is always the worst for me. It’s always when I hit my quota of tea and time spent under a blanket in a hoodie because I am too cheap to turn up the heat in this sieve of a house. I become awash in itchiness, not just physical but also mental – craving warmth, Vitamin D, and sunlight with every fiber of my being. It borders on obsessive, but it’s never usually too long before I can get some trickle of relief.
Except this year. This year, a frigid February has bled all the way into late March. It seems we may get a brief thaw towards the end of this week. You know, the exact same story as the past three or four weeks. Today didn’t even crack freezing. Again. Sigh.
Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the irony given this blog title. When it’s driving me this batty, I can’t imagine the torture for folks who aren’t inclined to enjoy any of the white and cold stuff. And there’s not even much white stuff to be had on the ground these days. If we were to get any more I think most Nutmeggers would start to permanently twitch. #gohomepolarvortexyouveoverstayedyourwelcome #notthatyouweremuchwelcomeinthefirstplace
Ahem. So. In an effort to relieve my intense seasonal itchiness, I’ve been reading, taking stock, and cleaning out my freezer stash like every other preserver on the planet. Plum & merlot preserves, raspberry rhubarb cardamom jam, rhubarb bitters all out of the freezer and onto the shelf. I am on a one-way stubborn driven mission to clean out all of the old fruit before I allow any new through the front door. Because spring will come at some point. Right? RIGHT?
While much of the Great Freezer Cleanout of 2014 is putting up once frozen fruit, some of it is trying to use up the last dregs of pantry staples too. This soup is a great vehicle for exactly that. Leftover protein? Sure. Wilted carrots? Of course. Greens of all kinds? Yes. Add whatever and call it minestrone anyway – I won’t tell. Full disclosure: not one ounce of Italian genes here, so my blessing doesn’t mean much. Who cares? Soup is forgiving.
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons herbes salees
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained
2 cups ditalini pasta
3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup red wine
3 quarts chicken stock
1 small dried chile, chopped or crumbled
1/2 head swiss chard, chopped into spoon size pieces
Freshly ground black pepper and pecorino romano to taste
Most minestrones start with some sort of pork rendered (sausage, bacon, pancetta) but I find that it doesn’t lend a whole lot here. So I generally leave it out. I sweat the beans, herbes salees, paprika, onion, carrots, chile and garlic in a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Saute for a few minutes, then stir in the tomato products. While you can use sundried tomatoes out of the jar, these ones were dehydrated in the height of tomato season. I like that they add a real depth of richness to the soup without more oil or vinegar. Deglaze with the wine, and then add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add pasta – cook until al dente. Wilt in the greens just prior to serving. Serve with crusty bread, a drizzle of super green extra virgin olive oil and as much grated hard cheese as you like.
Make this recipe one last time, and with any luck, you won’t want to make it again for six months or so.