(VEGETARIAN RECIPE) In the cold winter month of December, what’s better than a steaming hot bowl of soup? For this week’s Meat Free Monday Challenge, we have a tasty recipe for vegetarian — or vegan with some adjustments — minestrone soup, with an heirloom tomato bruschetta appetizer. As always, happy eating! — Global Animal

This particular puddle of deliciousness came from that classic American chain, the Olive Garden, and is so excellently tasty I usually just make a meal of a bowl or two of it. Photo Credit: E

Hungry Herbivore, E

When I was living in Florence, the minestrone I sampled was very green in color, as the Florentines seemed not to include tomatoes or kidney beans, and add kale as well. It was usually yummy, but I personally like having the tomatoes for the color and added tomato-ey flavor. I developed my own minestrone recipe when cooking for friends during a long vacation in the Algarve region in Portugal (where, luckily, we had a kitchen!); this, not any Portugese relation besides the Almancil grocery store, is why I call it “The Portugal Minestrone.” Because I use a leafy element (preferably fresh spinach) and tomatoes, I consider it a sort of unintentional fusion of Florentine and Olive Gardenine minestrone-styles.

And of course, I’ll share it with yall here =)

Portugal Minestrone!

Ingredients, in order of appearance:

-about 3 tablespoons olive oil

-1 white onion, diced

-3 cloves of garlic, diced

-3 1/2 cups of water, roughly

-3 or 4 vegetable bouillon cubes (depending on how salty you like things. I’m quite the salt fiend, so I use 4)

-1 zucchini, sliced

-a cup or so of sugar snap peas, cut diagonally. Okay, you don’t HAVE to cut them diagonally, I just think it looks nice… I may or may not have slight pea-OCD

-1 carrot, chopped into half-circles

-2 stalks of celery, chopped

-small penne or shell pasta, cooked and drained separately (however much you want)

-1 can kidney beans, liquid drained

-1 can white beans, liquid drained

-2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach

What to do with them:

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a sizable soup pot, and add the onion when it reaches sizzling point. After a few minutes, add the garlic (as my mom always told me, add garlic later, because due to its high oil content, it will burn faster). Once the onions are about transparent, pour in the water; bring to a boil, then add the bouillon cubes, zucchini, sugar snap peas, celery, and carrot. Let boil for 5 minutes or so, then leave to simmer with the lid on (save a shift-crack to release steam), for about 20 minutes, or until the veggies are pretty much tender, but not too mooshy (I tend to spoon out and taste things as I go).  Bring back to a boil, and add the pasta, beans, and spinach, and let bubble for about 3 minutes. Enjoy! This keeps in the fridge for about three days (I believe we ate it for three dinners the first time I made it).

and how about an appetizer…

Heirloom tomatoes are just beautiful. I used to lust over them on a near-weekly basis in the fabulous three-story London Whole Foods on High Street. Tonight, I used three little ones to create a tasty snack or appetizer. This would definitely be better if I had some proper Italian bread or a baguette, but plain old whole grain white worked just dandily:

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta-Toasties

Ingredients:

-3 little heirloom tomatoes (I used two red and one green), cut into little half-moon slices

-4 slices of bread (see above comment for type)

-a handful of Publix “6 Cheese Italian” shredded cheese (can be veganified through elimination, and I’m sure a gorgeous Bufala Mozzarella would be ideal, but this was a sort of spontaneous creation using the contents of my commoner’s fridge)

-a few big leaves of fresh basil

-Balsamic vinegar (my mom had some incredible barrel-aged fancy pants stuff from Williams-Sonoma in the kitchen… score!)

-cracked pepper to taste

-a few pinches of sea salt

What to do with them:

Sprinkle cheese on bread (or don’t, if you’re a vegan), and toast in toaster oven (or real oven, if you have one of those normal pop-up toasters), and toast until desired level of crunch. Remove, cut off crusts, and cut bread into quarters. On each square of toast, first place a leaf of basil, then a slice or two of tomato. If basil is placed on top, it has this naughty little tendency to slide off. Drizzle entire plate with balsamic, then season with pepper and salt.

It’s so simple and quick, but so, so tasty.  And pretty!

notice how my mom and I had already devoured most of them...

 

Both of these dishes sound quite light, due to their overwhelming veggie-ness, and in terms of calories and fat, they are! However, between the minestrone’s beans and pasta (especially if you use whole grain) and the tasty carby undertone of the bruschetta, there is a very hearty, filling aftereffect to the consumption of these dishes. I remember feeling positively beached the first time I slurped down the Portugal Minestrone.

Vegetarianism, when it tastes this good, isn’t for wusses.

More Hungry Herbivore: http://hungryherbivore.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/yes-soup-for-you/

Learn more about the Meat-Free Mondays Challenge!

Don’t forget to check out our other vegan recipes:

Savory Sweet Potato Indian-spiced Soup

Vegan Burger

Happy Chick Breakfast Tacos

Broccoli and Peanut Stir Fry

Cocoa Cashew Butter Muffin

Halloween Slime Smoothie

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Love Casserole

Skillet Cornbread

Muesli Breakfast

Lettuce Wraps

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