Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mai Ling's Minestrone ... for the day

Fall does more than just instill nostalgia for Oktoberfest. It also creates a need to create and devour rich, hearty soups.

Of course, Mom would prefer it if soups were a part of our daily diet, as they are in her house, where she serves soup before every meal. You see, it's not just a ritual that's done at Asian restaurants, it's actually a tradition that I believe has multiple health reasons: 1) to heat your belly and prepare it for hot, solid food, and 2) to fill your belly and keep you from overeating during the meal.

Unfortunately, there aren't actually any recipes for the soups that Mom makes. I've asked, believe me, but it just seems like she throws together whatever mishmash of vegetables, mushrooms and soup bones she has on hand. I'm sure the basic combinations come from something that once resembled a recipe or maybe just flavors she remembers from childhood, but it's going to take me some time to be able to share them with you.

So bear with me, and know that in the meantime, she's also passed on that ability to throw together a mishmash of whatever is in the refrigerator to yours truly, although right now I'm still wading through typical American fare. You're going to have to wait for the Asian soups, which are intimidating when your mom could throw down Bobby Flay with just a pair of chopsticks and some soy sauce.

I'm not sure what exactly defines a Minestrone soup, but I know they often have beans and noodles in them, so we'll just call this

Mai Ling's Minestrone
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. sliced carrot
1 c. sliced celery
4 c. chicken broth
1 14.5-oz. can Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or just use normal tomatoes and add basil and oregano)
2 frozen chicken breasts
1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans
1 15.5-oz. can garbanzo beans
1 c. dried macaroni (or other noodle of your choice)
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add onions, carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes and chicken and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a plate and shred with two forks. Meanwhile, add macaroni to soup and cook according to package directions.

When macaroni is cooked, add chicken, both cans of beans and pepper to heat through, then serve.

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