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A Nice Little Italian Minestrone

Italian minestrone

This is called an Italian minestrone — which usually means whatever you have in the fridge made into a soup — and it is a wonderful soup for those occasionally cool rainy days that still show up in April. This came originally from a Bon Appetite article I saw, probably four or five years ago, and with a little tweaking, became a fast friend at my house, at least.

The base for this soup is relatively easy, and it’s very good in just about every situation I can think of. But what’s great, is there are a whole host of other things you can add, which only make it better. I’ve use a little broccoli, some asparagus, some spinach (added late in the soup) and a few other things. I’d stay away from zucchini (courgette) for this recipe, mainly because it drastically changes the taste, but otherwise — go for it. I tend to like the leeks and carrots in this soup. You might try scallions or better yet shallots instead of the leeks, but keep the carrots.

And for the pasta, main thing is to keep it small, little pasta leaves, ditalini, small shells. Just small.

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Classic Beef Bourguignon

beef bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is one of those dishes that everyone who aspires to be a great cook should have to master. One the surface, its beef stew. And yet, calling beef Bourguignon a beef stew is like calling Beethoven’s Fifth a song. Technically accurate, to be sure, but nowhere near to conveying the subtle beauty of the dish. The great thing is that this dish is easy to make, but still requires the kind of attention and care that defines good cooking.

There are many versions of this dish around, and there is a great deal of variation from one version of beef Bourguignon to the next. The classic preparation uses whole small white onions, carrots and mushrooms in addition to the beef, some thyme and a red burgundy wine, which is 100% pinot noir. (I have this on the authority of no less than Julia Child, and that’s enough for me.)

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Ditalini and Carrots

ditalini and carrots

I haven’t done much about side dishes here, and that’s something we’d like to change going forward. Ditalini and carrots is one of those terrific side dishes that you could, under the right circumstances, make into a damn fine meal, if you really wanted to do that. And while it’s not strictly a vegetarian meal, a bit of switching the broth could even convert this dish to vegetarian.

What I like about the dish is that it has plenty of flavor, especially if you can get some fresh carrots from the local farm market, for example. And the cheese and rosemary at the end really sends it over the top. On top of that, it actually looks really nice on a plate or in a bowl. It goes pretty well with just about anything, even meat with lots of sauce like a Saltimbocca or perhaps a little barbecue, or something similar.

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Glazed Pan Seared Cod with Carrot Ginger Broth

Glazed Pan Seared Cod with Carrot Ginger Broth

This recipe for pan seared cod is the latest in a series of recipes in which I’ve been trying to develop and make use of wine-based broths made from single vegetables in conjunction with seafood. The experiments started with the grilled halibut in tomato broth recipe I posted a while back, and I’m not sure what’s next, but I’m discovering that these single vegetable broths are very versatile and make for some very pretty presentations.

The broths take some time to create, but they can be made a day or two ahead of time, so the prep time for the meal can be very short if necessary. The flavors in the broth are bright and concentrated and offer a perfect complement to the sweet umami rich flavors from the glaze on the fish.

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