Monday, November 26, 2012

Playa + Italian-Style Veggie Soup

from Meghann:

Hope you all had a wonderful, family, friend, and food-filled Thanksgiving! And that your football (Americano) team won - both of ours did!

We were invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (plus plenty of Spanish cava) at our friends' casa on Thursday. We were so grateful to spend the holiday with friends - and no dishes! Our families were definitely missed, but we were able to call and talk to them. One thing that wasn't missed - Black Friday. Neither of us were into it when we lived in the States and it seems even sillier now. There's really nothing similar in EspaƱa and it seems difficult to explain that we follow a beautiful holiday dedicated to giving thanks by immediately going out, fighting crowds, and spending money. 

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and enjoying the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We don't deck the halls until December, so this time is perfect for catching up on things at the casa and enjoying our little familia. 

On Saturday, we took the dogs down to the beach. This time of year, it's pretty empty at the playa, besides a handful of surfers and a few other people walking. That meant we were able to let Chloe and Cora off their leashes so they could run around. After a busy few weeks traveling and the start of the holiday season, we all needed some exercise. And the beach is so peaceful during the fall.

The hillside was so green! No rain in the summer makes for great weather, but everything turns brown. After a few days of rain in the fall, all that brown comes back to life. 


After two Thanksgivings, a "leftovers" dinner, more gravy then we eat during the rest of the year combined, and a sweet potato casserole bender, we were starting to feel a little gluttonous.  Getting outside with the dogs and hitting the gym (3 dias in a row!) is a start, but we needed a healthy, vegetable-filled meal to really feel like we were getting back on track (and so that we can fall back off the wagon in a couple weeks when it's Christmas dinner time and not feel quite so terrible about it.)

I told Graham I was in the mood to make some soup this weekend and asked if there was any kind in particular that he wanted - we both immediately thought of this Italian-style vegetable soup. It's packed full of vegetables and the flavor comes from garlic and herbs, instead of cream or meat, and I use beans instead of pasta. It's a perfect fall or winter soup, great served with some crusty bread (or a side-salad for you carb-haters) and a glass of vino. It also makes a great Meatless Monday meal, if you're into that, and it can even be vegan if you leave out the cheese (but that's never happening in this casa). 

Here's the recipe, if you also need a little post-Thanksgiving detox. Or if you just want a hearty but healthy dinner option.

Italian-Style Vegetable Soup
Meatless Monday Minestrone


-olive oil
-2 or 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky disks
-2 or 3 celery stalks, cut into thick slices
-1 onion, large dice
-2 or 3 zucchinis, cut into chunks
-2 large portobellos or 1 package baby bellas, chopped
-3 garlic cloves, halved
-vegetable stock
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 or 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped (or dried) 
-thyme and/or oregano can also be added
-crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
-splash of dry red wine
-rind of parmesan cheese (bonus points if you have this! also a great use for something that you would otherwise throw away)
-1 can of cannellini beans
-2 handful fresh spinach, roughly chopped (can use frozen)
-salt and pepper
-grated parmesan cheese


-coat bottom of large pot with olive oil, turn heat to medium high
-add carrots, celery, and onion
-cook until onions are soft and carrots and celery are becoming tender
-add zucchini, portos, and garlic cloves
-cook until becoming tender
-add diced tomatoes
-add enough veggie broth to cover vegetables
-add herbs, wine, and cheese rind
-reduce heat and simmer until all vegetables are cooked through, but not overcooked
-add beans and spinach (wait until right before serving or else they overcook and fall apart)
-allow spinach to wilt and beans to warm
-salt and pepper to taste
-serve in bowls and top with fresh grated parmesan

Sorry not all of the measurements are precise, that's just not how I roll. Adjust the flavor as you go, adding more vegetable stock if needed. Veggie soups are pretty flexible - if you can't find zucchini, use squash or a mix of both. If you can get your hands on kale and prefer that to spinach, use that instead (just add it earlier with the zucchini and mushrooms since it needs more cooking time.) Think vegetarian meals are for filthy hippies? Brown some diced pancetta in the pan before adding the carrot, celery, and onion. Double the recipe (it freezes well) and you'll have a ready-made meal for a busy December day.

Is your holiday season off to a good start? Are your decorations up yet or are you taking a little time to relax before jumping into the next holiday?

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