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A Spring Minestrone in the Dead of California Winter (Not)

January 17th, 2009

Those of you who live in California are probably pretty thrilled to be enjoying summer temperatures in what’s usually the dead of winter (which usually involves temperatures in the 40s and rain). Like you, I’ve been dusting off my open toed shoes, pulling out my summer skirts and dresses, drinking more white wine and cooking up more summer-like fare. I imagine this won’t last, so thought I’d share a recipe with you that is more reminiscent of spring than of winter. For those readers who are currently bracing for more snow, chills and wind, don’t worry–I think recipe will work just as well for you.

I was thrilled to have received Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking cookbook for Christmas and have already been making mental notes of recipes I’m going to make. I’ve been a longtime fan of her blog, and as you can see from my growing recipe collection, I’ve often taken inspiration from her approach to preparing fresh, seasonal food. This soup looks like the welcoming of spring: crisp green vegetables ensconced in a hearty vegetarian broth with brown rice. While I often visit Heidi’s site, I’ve found myself engulfed in her book. Not only is it packed with great recipes, but it also provides a fantastic introduction to natural ingredients you wouldn’t normally think to cook with.

I did an Asian-inspired take on this soup (busting out my handy toasted sesame oil and frozen edamame from Trader Joe’s). So cook this up, whether you’re warm or cold!

Heidi Swanson’s Spring Minestrone
*serves 4

6 cups of vegetable stock (I used pre-made and only had 4 cups, so subbed in 2 cups of water)
1/2 cup of brown rice (Heidi recommends 3/4ths of a cup, but I found this to be a bit much)
1 cup of snow peas, cut in half
12 thin asparagus spears, cup in 8ths (about 1 inch segments)
1/2 cup of frozen edamame (just throw these into boiling water for 2 minutes before adding to the soup)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 shallots, cut in half, then sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, sauteing for a few minutes until they become tender.
2. Add in the rice (rinse first) and toss it around with the garlic and shallots briefly, before adding the stock and bringing the mixture to a boil.
3. Put a lid on the pot, lower heat, and simmer for 35-45 minutes, until the rice is done (time will vary depending on which type of rice you use).
4. Once the rice is cooked, add in all of the fresh vegetables, along with some salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. The vegetables will retain their color and texture this way.
5. Serve. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Eat. Smile. Dip some bread in there!

*I made some changes to Heidi’s original recipe and in the future, will likely try making this soup with wild rice.
*Heidi suggests that you could do an Italian take on this recipe, by subbing out the edamame with peas or fava beans and adding Parmesan, basil and lemon zest.