Soup is the best: two more cookbooks down

I love winter for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is that my obsession with soup stops seeming really weird when the weather gets colder. I never let something like 100 degree heat stop me from enjoying delicious soup, but it seems more socially acceptable in the winter months. The perfect time to knock out some of my cookbook goals! First up was this guy:

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Anotine d'Avila-Latourrette

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Anotine d’Avila-Latourrette

Soup was probably the first thing I learned to cook on my own because of its simplicity, and I’ve had this book since high school. The recipes are divided by month to help in using seasonal ingredients, and the bottoms of the pages are decorated in medieval woodcuts and proverbs about soup (“Eat soup first and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past”). Often the recipes have stories about their origins or different variations too. Most of them are pretty simple, but hearty, and if any meat is used at all, it’s only in the optional chicken broth. You have to fiddle with some of these recipes, but it’s not hard because they’re usually pretty simple. I’ve had the book for so long that I have a lot of notes penciled in the margins about that, but I can see how some people would find it frustrating. I chose to make the Pasta and Lentil Soup, because lentils are delicious!

I know this picture isn't beautiful, but it was definitely tasty

I know this picture isn’t beautiful, but it was definitely tasty

I had to add a lot more water than the recipe called for, and it still ended up being more stew like, but still delicious with some bread and a little Parmesan cheese. Of course I am keeping this book, I can’t get enough soup!!

As evidenced the week after when, with a whole book of Italian food to choose from, I still decided to make soup again:

Italian & Pasta: Quick and Easy, Proven Recipes

Italian & Pasta: Quick and Easy, Proven Recipes

I got this book as a wedding present from my favorite math teacher (sorry, Mom, but I was never in your class) along with AMAZING HOMEMADE POTTERY, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t cooked anything from it until now. It’s not as tall as most of our cookbooks (though just as thick: 350 pages of delicious!), and I think it was getting lost behind some of them. Well, that mistake has been rectified because this book is SO GOOD!! Each recipe is only a page spread, one of which is a giant picture, so none of them are too complicated and I always know what I’m aiming for (Steven always makes fun of me for this, but cookbooks really can’t have enough pictures in them–I want to see what I’m making to whet my appetite!). The only weird thing about it is how the recipes are divided. The table of contents has sections for: “Soups & Appetizers”, “Fish & Shellfish”, “Meats”, “Poultry & Game”, “Vegetables & Salads”, and “Entertaining & Dessert”. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of overlap, especially because “Entertaining” just seems to mean appetizers and entrees for larger groups of people. Luckily, there’s also an index so finding the recipe you’re thinking of need not be that difficult.

I decided to make the Classic Minestrone

I decided to make the Classic Minestrone

I’ve made minestrone before, but this one was a little bit different, because it included bacon. I was wary of this step (I’m not really a huge fan of bacon), but it ended up tasting good since there wasn’t very much of it. It just added a more meaty, salty flavor to the broth. I can’t wait to try more recipes from this book! Both recipes after the cut:

Pasta and Lentil Soup
from Twelve Months of Monastery Soup
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 cups of chicken broth (could be vegetable, or just water if you prefer)
5-6 cups water (keep an eye on it and add more as needed; the lentils soak up a lot)
1 pound dried lentils
2 8-oz cans of tomato paste (which don’t exist?? So I just approximated)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup small pasta shells
salt and pepper

1. Pour olive oil into a large soup pot. Add and saute the onions, mushrooms, and garlic over low-medium heat for about 3 minutes. Stir continually.
2. Add the broth, 4 cups of water, lentils, and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce to medium. Add the bay leaf, ginger, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover pot, and cook for 40 minutes. (This is where you want to watch it and add more water if it needs some, because you know the pasta’s going to take up some too).
3. Add the pasta, cover the pot, and simmer until pasta is cooked. Stir again and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Classic Minestrone
from Italian & Pasta: Quick and Easy, Proven Recipes
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup trimmed and halved green beans
3 tbsp frozen peas
Pasta (it said 2 oz., I just eyeball it)

1. Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large saucepan. Throw in the bacon, cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.
2. Throw in onion, garlic, celery, and carrots, one ingredient at a time, stirring well. Cover and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until softened.
3. Add chopped tomatoes with juices and stock, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Stir in cabbage, green beans, and peas, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
5. Add the bacon and return to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for amount of time on box. Season to taste and serve with Parmesan cheese and bread!!

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