Why Hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, the site where one man puts himself in danger for his dinner, and describes his daring and death-defying dining for your diversion. I’m your master of disaster, Jon O’Guin. When we last spoke on Thursday, there was a very small chance I wouldn’t make it to talk to you now, as I faced my most dangerous cooking technique to date: pressure cooking. (Though, really, from number of injuries, I bet deep-frying is more dangerous) And it turned out fine. I made a soup, things went wrong in silly ways, so let’s spill the beans on what went down with Harvest Vegetable Minestrone.
A Gross Misuse of Resources
If you think I was getting through our 144th post without making some kind of joke about it being “gross”, then you don’t know me. Or industrial/archaic counting terminology, more probably. In case you are one of those: 144 of something is a “gross” of it in shipping. This is because for several centuries, France had a weird counting system thanks to Charlemagne.
No, not that one.
Thanks to their medieval (and very White) Emperor, they counted things by 12s and 20s. So 144 of something was a grosse dozaine or “big dozen”, because it’s a dozen dozens (12x12). This would get simplified to une grosse, and the term came over as they traded with England. Fun fact: there’s actually multiple grosses, including a ‘great gross’, which is 1728 of something (a dozen grosses) and a “small gross” or “great hundred”, which is 120 of it. (ten dozen). None of which has anything to do today’s recipe, but where else was I going to be able to show you guys all this GROSS STUFF?
THE GROSS WILL NEVER YIELD, MACHINE MENACE
Anyway, today’s recipe DOES have a misuse of resources. Specifically, time. See, the recipe I’m using today claims to be an hour and half long, but, as I mentioned can happen on Thursday’s post, this doesn’t include warm-up/pressurize time. Further, this was actually the first time I was going to use the cooker in question, and the manual recommends doing a simple water-only runthrough as a precaution for your first run, that would take 30 minutes.
Thus, I saw that I had 2 hours of ‘cooking time’, and figured there’d be another 20-30 minutes of warm-up, so I gave myself a window of 3 hours to make everything. Boom. Everything planned out, allotted for, with an extra 30 minutes! I got this on lock!
Except the lid. I did not have the lid on lock. Somehow I closed it incorrectly for the water run, and so I wasted 20 minutes waiting for a pot to boil, immediately blowing through most of the extra time I set aside.
I..uh…took this picture to show how long it was taking.
Without taking a picture of the time when I STARTED.
So we have a mid-point, with neither an end nor beginning.
That’s almost poetically stupid.
Once I sorted it out, you’ll be happy to hear that everything went smoothly, and the water was heated and cooled without major issue. Which let me move on to the main event.
Like a Canary in a Coal Mine-strone
That joke only works written out, so SUCK IT, Jon who reads these aloud for the Patrons! Enjoy mentally editing these sentences on the fly to maintain your ratio of facts-to-humor!
So, Minestrone (which, to elaborate, is pronounced “min-eh-stroh-nee”). It’s an old school Italian soup. And when I say “Old School”, I mean “800 BC” old. I mean “Y’all know the Roman Empire? Well, before that, it was a Republic. And before that, it was a Kingdom. And before THAT, people were eating something that looked like this soup.”
When Pompey the Great thinks your shit is old-fashioned, it’s OLD.
Minestrone is…not technically a recipe. That’s a weird thing to say, so let me explain: minestrone, in the original Italian, was a CLASS of soups. The word itself is…weird. So, Italian has three words for soups, and two of them have weird names. The easiest one is zuppa, and it refers to brothy soups, and even sounds like “soup”. Then there’s minestra, which…is where things get weird. See, minestrare is Italian for “to serve”. Minestra is, rather clearly, a conjugation of it. So minestra translates to “that which is served”. And it refers to heartier soups, with like, pasta and veggies in them. It’s a little like if you had made a dish that was just called “The Special” or “Whatever I Make”. Got it? Well, get ready to add a layer. See, minestrone is the augmentative form of minestra, meaning it’s “what that says, but more”. In English, this is usually achieved with prefixes like “super”, or “mega” or, since the 70’s, by adding “-zilla” to the end of a word, or by adding profanity. As an example, if you were at a restaurant and saw “The Grilled Cheese Sandwich”, and then the next entry was “Cheese-zilla” or “The Goddamn Grilled Cheese Sandwich”, you immediately get which one is bigger, right? It’s the same idea. Do you want the Soup, or the SUPER SOUP?
Brief aside: Has everyone had a family member or friend get confused by the “soup or salad” question, and ask what the “super salad” is? Or do I just know several dumb people?
In this way minestrone is really just like, the Italian word for a stew. As such, there’s not really a consensus on what, exactly, goes into it because the answer is kind of “whatever you want”. (Or, you know “whatever is served”? huh? HUH?) Many recipes are vegetarian, but some include meat. Many modern versions include some kind of tomato, but others don’t. The most common ingredients are mirepoix (carrots, onion, and celery), beans (for texture and protein), and stock (chicken, beef, veggie, whatever.) Otherwise, it’s mainly just supposed to be “whatever veggies are in season”. Summer minestrones can have corn, zucchini, and bell peppers, while a spring Minestrone might have baby potatoes, peas, and chives. Since it’s November, and thus Fall, I dove more toward the…roots of the dish.
Don’t Turn-ip Your Nose at some Rut Vegetables
My puns are swiftly going downhill this post. Anyway, as those lines charitably described as ‘jokes’ imply, my soup was mostly based around root vegetables. After the Carrot, onion, and celery, I grabbed Parsnips, Rutabagas and Turnips.
and brutally dismembered them.
Parsnips, as I apparently never mentioned before, are carrot’s anemic cousins. Despite their bland look, they’re actually sweeter than carrots, especially if harvested late, as frost will cause them to concentrate their sugars in winter.
Turnips and Rutabagas I’ve never actually cooked with before. They’re Brassicas, though not brassica oleraceas, so we don’t need to add ANOTHER personality to that shape-shifting seductress of salads and slaws. They’re technically only slightly related, but literally no one believes that, as rutabagas are basically just sweeter turnps, and are even often called “wax/Yellow/Swedish turnips” because of their more yellow color and waxier appearance. Flavor-wise, turnips taste kind of like radishes, which makes sense, because radishes are ALSO BRASSICAS? IS THERE A PLANT THAT ISN’T RELATED TO THESE DICKS?
Seriously, though, seeing them next to each other, it’s pretty clear why rutabags are called “X Turnip”. I could EASILY be convinced these are both the same plant. (the Rutabaga is on the left.)
Foliage-freakout aside, This recipe is quite simple. It’s also, funnily enough, completely vegan, which was a nod to one of my hosts for this month being vegan. Of course, I completely failed to communicate that anyone could have the soup, so she didn’t EAT any, but they say it’s the thought that count. The Multi-cooker is used in two ways for the recipe: the first is as a pressure cooker to rehydrate and process beans for the soup, and then as a basically just a stock pot. Another fun fact: my multi-cooker is smaller than the one used for the recipe, so I had to reduce all of my quantities to 2/3rds the original size.
Which is a convenient number, because the first 2/3rds of the recipe, time wise, are “load up beans, water, onions, and garlic in the pot, turn it on, and walk away for an hour.” It’ll take about a half hour to cook the beans, and then you want the pressure to drain naturally, so just let it sit there for 20-30 minutes. At the end of it, you’ll have some surprisingly soft (and weirdly pungent) beans.
Ignore the ‘dicey’ interlopers in the bottom half. I got excited.
Now, you can probably dice up your veggies as the beans cook. Me, I had another 40 minutes to kill earlier waiting for that water to boil, so I did it then. You’ll want to cut your veggies into ½” chunks, and keep them roughly the same size so they’ll take the same amount of time to cook. Or don’t, and just have a wild mix of textures in your mouth. Some people like to try weird things. I try not to judge. Too loudly.
This recipe, being Italian, will also need some spices. Specifically: Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary. Except I didn’t add any rosemary, due to my long-standing hatred of it, and also the fact that I didn’t notice it wasn’t on the spice rack in the house I’m staying in for the month I’m in Oregon. To compensate for its absence, I just added more of the other three spices. Like how If one Ninja Turtle is missing, the others will pick up the slack.
Basil is clearly the Leonardo of the group.
Anyway, once your beans are fattened up, you add your veggies and spices, and simmer the whole shebang for 10 minutes. I added a little water here, as it was kind of hard to stir the beans and veg together, which slowed down my cooking time a little, further narrowing my available time.
After 10 minutes of bubbling your beans and roots, add some pasta noodles and tomato paste. Another 10 minutes later, and you have this.
Look! A bowl of pasta and veggies! Who would have guessed this was the end result?
And this was…not finished. See, I didn’t actually account for ALL the time needed, as getting the pot back up to a simmer after the pressure cooking took longer than I had. Basically, I only really simmered my veggies for about 15 minutes. At first, I thought the whole thing would be a firm, crisp issue, but it turns out that I probably should have been stirring the pot a little more, as SOME of the pieces were fairly tender, while others were still crisp. I ate a quick bowl of it, and leaned into the other fun feature of the Multi-cooker: I set it on “Keep warm” and ran off to rehearsal for 3 hours. By the time I came back, the soup had become THIS:
The Slow Cooker somehow added black pepper to the dish.
The veggies were much more balanced in textures, and the pasta had puffed up and absorbed a ton of the water. Flavorwise, it was kind of weird. As noted, this recipe really only has Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and tomato paste as the flavorings for the ‘broth’ of the soup. So it ends up tasting…well, kind of like a generic pizza sauce. I also found it was a little weak on savory notes, with all the sweeter root vegetables. It wasn’t bad, by any stretch, it just tasted…unfinished, basically. Like it needed another element to really come together. Maybe some garlic salt, or some mushrooms would balance the flavors more, but as it stands, for a first time cooking multiple ingredients during the first time using a new device, it was a pretty solid success.
THURSDAY: I SAID I WAS GOING BACK TO THE FAIR, AND EVEN THOUGH I KIND OF WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE, I’M GOING TO.
MONDAY: I’M PLANNING ON MAKING PEAR CRISP, BUT I JUST REALIZED THE PEARS HAVE BEEN SITTING IN THE GROCERY BAG FOR LIKE, 5-6 DAYS, SO WE’LL SEE IF THEY’RE GOOD.
Fall harvest Minestrone
Serves 6-8 full size, 4-6 Jon Size
Ingredients (all values given full-sized. Do your own math if your cooker is weird like Jon’s)
2 cups chopped Onions
1 cup dried white beans (any variety) washed and drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of ½-inch pieces of each of the following vegetables:
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp dried oregano
3 cups dried shell pasta
1 6-oz can tomato-paste
Salt & pepper.
1. IN a 6- qt multicooker, combine onions, garlic, and beans with 3 cups water. Seal lid and steam valve, and set cooker on “Beans” setting for 35 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 20 minutes when done.
2. Open lid carefully. Set cooker to Brown/Sauté, add the veggies and spices, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
3. Add pasta, tomato paste, and 3 cups hot water, and stir to combine. Cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.