June 29, 2022

A la Carte: Spring is Here … Celebrate with Spring Minestrone

Lee White

I have spent the past few weeks with friends, first with the Oscars (yes, we all saw the slap and, with all the brilliant actors and crew from the amazing movie, CODA, they knew what Will Smith was saying. I myself don’t read lips, but I knew what he was saying.)

The following Friday, we watched UConn ladies in the Final Four.

On Sunday, I watched them alone.  Sigh.

I had also made two cakes, the one called Emergency Chocolate Cake because it is dairy-free and can usually be made easily with pantry and refrigerator staples. During the Friday game, we all made make-your-own ice cream sundaes with slices of the cake.

During half-times, we talked politics and food. Libby is cleaning up her gorgeous flower and vegetable gardens, while the rest of us talked about how lucky we are to get incredibly superb frozen vegetables.

And now that I don’t have a garden, I do have a big freezer and buy pounds of Whole Food and Trader Joe’s frozen sweet peas, corn, beans and broccoli (I am also buying the broccoli, plus cauliflower, from the produce aisles). 

Ingredients for the following recipe can all be found without driving almost an hour. And feel free to add other vegetables and change the ones you can’t find. I have been using fresh asparagus for some weeks. Is it fresh and local? Probably not, but they are lovely, the tips tight and the green stalks wonderful upright.

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner.

Spring Minestrone
From Real Simple, April, 2022

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only sliced into thin rounds
3 stalks celery, sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
6 cups lower-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup ditalini pasta
4 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)
4 ounces cups green Swish chard
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil plus small leaves for serving
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add leeks, celery, crushed red pepper (9if using), and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks soften, about 4 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Add pasta to pan. Return to a boil. Cook over medium high, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in beans during final 3 minutes of cook time. Remove from heat.

Stir in chard, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 ¼ teaspoon salt. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Top with parmesan (if using) and small basil leaves.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.