Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quinoa Minestrone and the state of the nation

Hello people, friends, friendly people.  I hope that wherever you're reading this from you're warm and dry and well fed.  If you're two of these three things you're in good shape.  If you're all three, all the better.  If you're all three AND have someone you can do nice things for, well then my friend, you may consider that you're in better shape than most of the people on the planet and thank your lucky stars.  If you have all those things AND no one's dropping bombs on your homeland or holding a loved one of yours indefinitely without charge or promise of a trial, well then it becomes hard to complain about those few extra holiday pounds, doesn't it?

What a complicated world we're living in these days.  I know that in some ways that's the call of the ages, that generation after generation has lamented the state of the nation, the environment, the ever more disrespectful youth, the increasing violence and loss of safety, the loss of innocence and the good ol' days, the increasing difficulty in just getting by.  Now we have added health problems to contend with and all the ethical dilemmas that accompany what used to be simple consumer choices. Some try to put it on the media - things have always been bad, we're just hearing about them more now.  Some put it on the political party in power - damn republicans/democrats.  Some put it on the powers behind the powers in power - damn federal reserve/international bankers/1%/etc.  Some put it on capitalism.  Some put it on prophecy and "end times".

It's complicated.  It's confusing.  It's important.  It's more than most of us want to deal with.  It's overwhelming and it's hard to know where to start - how to make a difference, how to incorporate meaningful changes and choices into one's life.  It causes family fights and hardens hearts and eyes.  And even if it IS the call of the ages, that doesn't make it any less significant to those of us living in it today.  What do we do with it?  And what the hell does this have to do with Minestrone?

Good question.  I guess in some ways I feel silly posting posts about healthy food recipes when the kitchen is on fire, so to speak.  At the same time, I want to keep posting them because food choices are very much a part of how I try to navigate this crazy world - trying to eat food that doesn't have violence inherent in it, that is NOT genetically modified or owned by Monsanto, that is not enslaving a nation in cash crop production, that is fresh and clean, that comes from near my home, that is seasonal.  I want to feed myself, my friends, my community food that does not harm our health.  In a country with a food system that is as messed up as ours, in which it is easier to get cheap, packaged, processed, "dead" food than it is to get a healthy head of broccoli, these small choices about what we put on our plates are tiny acts of protest.  Dissent.  Filling people up with good food is how I show love in this world that sometimes seems so very bleak to me.  It's also how I give the finger to corporations that profit on our ill health.

I write these posts because I hope that they may inspire you to fill yourselves and your loved ones with good food too - not because these "recipes" are so unique or inspired.  Mostly they're simple and experimental - nothing that you couldn't have come up with yourself had you been so inclined.

In the spirit of love and community, of dissent against the status quo that's killing our health, environment, and spirit - here's a big ol' pot of soup to share with old and new friends on a chilly evening.  Alter it wildly to suit yourself or follow it to the letter, just cook something nourishing and share it with someone you love (like you).


1.5 cups each of carrots / onions / celery - medium dice
3-4 cloves garlic - minced
1 or 2 28oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
1.25 cups quinoa
1 cup dried white beans (cannellini/great northern/lima - whatever you like!)
4-5 cups water or vegetable stock
3-4 T fresh herbs (thyme/oregano/basil)
2-3 cups shredded kale *
2-3 cups green beans, cut on the bias *

* The idea is to add some green, quick cooking vegetables at the end.  Kale, spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, these are things that are best when cooked as little as possible.  
They get added to the soup just before you serve it - or can even be placed on the table for people to add directly into their individual bowls. 

  • The night before you're going to make this, or in the morning, soak your beans.  This is just so much better and cheaper and less packed with sodium than canned beans.
  • Drain the soaking water, rinse the beans, cover with cold water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil on the stove.  Reduce heat and simmer until they're soft - about 30 to 45 minutes.  Don't add salt while you're cooking them as this will prevent them from softening.
  • Rinse the quinoa, cover it with water, and set aside to soak as you prep your vegetables.  This makes it easier to digest.
  • Chop the carrots, onions and celery.  In a large soup pot, sweat these vegetables over low/medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.  Partially cover the pot as you do this.  The plan is to get the vegetables to "sweat" and release their juices, creating a good flavor base for the soup.  You don't want all the juices to evaporate away as you do this, hence the partial covering.
  • While the veggies sweat, chop the garlic and herbs.  
  • When the carrots and company are soft, add the garlic and herbs and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  • Now add the canned tomatoes and stock/water - turn the heat up to bring it to a simmer.
  • Check the beans.  Are they soft?  Drain and rinse them - reserving a cup of the cooking water to add to the soup if you wish.  Add them to the soup.
  • Rinse and drain the soaking quinoa and add it to the pot.
  • Once the soup comes up to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for another 30 minutes, up to an hour.  
  • If you dig on pasta - add the broken pieces from the bottoms of your pasta bags.  I left pasta out and used quinoa to make this gluten free, but you can throw in whatever you like.
  • Stir the pot occasionally (figuratively too) - does it need more water?  More tomatoes?
  • Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt at this stage, and additional fresh herbs if you wish.
  • Now here's the best part - JUST before you're going to serve the soup, add the kale and green beans.  (See the * above for explanation)
  • Serve in big bowls with fresh cracked pepper and eat as much as your heart desires.
All the best to you and yours.



  1. This looks great.....I'm making it today. Thanks for the inspiring recipes. Please keep on posting

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Why you're very welcome, and thanks for the thanks :)