Meal planning for this past week started with a recipe for focaccia bread that Nick sent me on Friday. It looked delightful and I couldn’t wait to make it. While I could happily eat nothing but bread for dinner, I had a hunch that that might not be the best idea, so I decided to add some soup and salad into the mix.
I’ve recently been cutting down on my animal protein intake in an effort to 1) combat the ‘Murica pounds we put on this summer and 2) put my mind at ease after reading “The China Study” (ok, reading 1/3 of it), so I wanted something with a more veggie-centric base and just a little meat, if any. I settled on minestrone, and after doing some online recipe perusing, decided to just throw whatever I felt like in a pot and see what happened. The results were delightful. With the addition of bacon, how could they not be? Bacon makes everything better (said the girl trying to eat less meat).
In the minestrone recipe below you’ll see that I only use half of some of the veggies. Don’t worry, they didn’t go to waste! When I meal plan, I try to plan meals that share ingredients so that everything gets used up. I planned around having extra veggies on hand and made a Veggie Lasagna last night!
So without further ado I give you:
Minestrone a la Grenada (’cause it has callaloo, y’all)
Note: Veggie and other ingredient adjustments can be made according to what you can find at your grocery store. I heart the locally grown produce here, and supplement it by picking up the imported carrots, celery, and the like.
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb. callaloo, stems and thick ribs removed, chopped (I find this easiest to do by stacking the cleaned leaves, rolling them, slicing once vertically down the center of the roll, and then chopping in the perpendicular direction [much like you would do when chiffonade-ing basil])
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 2 carrots, cut in half vertically and sliced into thin half moons
- 2 stalks celery, cut in half vertically and sliced
- 1 large, or two medium sized, potatoes, chopped
- 1/2 large, or 1 medium, zucchini, chopped
- 1/2 christophine (aka chayote), chopped
- 1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 6 cups stock (I used 4 cups homemade vegetable and 2 cups homemade duck. ‘Cause that’s what we had in the freezer)
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 – 19 oz can cannellini beans
- 1 1/2 cups macaroni or other small pasta
- 3 tbsp basil, chiffonade
- Grated Parmesan, to taste
- In a large stock pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook until the onions are translucent and the bacon is cooked, but not crunchy. Add the garlic and cook 30 more seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add the callaloo a handful at a time, stirring to wilt down in between additions. If the pan begins to look too dry, add additional olive oil. Salt generously (about 1/2 tbsp) and pepper (1 tsp) and cook down 2-3 minutes. It’s always a great idea to salt as you go, as opposed to all at once at the end. That way the saltiness develops as the flavors develop.
- Prep and add the remaining vegetables in the order listed. Continue to stir as you prep and add.
- Honestly, I did this the whole way through. So I chopped onions and garlic at the same time, and while the onions cooked chopped the callaloo, then while the callaloo cooked down chopped the remainder of the veggies in the order listed above, adding them as they were chopped and ready.
- Season with 1 more tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
- Cook 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, rosemary, stock, and 3 of the diced tomato cans worth of water (a tin can makes a fine measuring device indeed).
- Cover, bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and partially cover. Cook 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper.
- Return the soup to a boil. Add the beans and pasta. Stir and boil until pasta cooks, 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional hot water as needed.
- Remove from heat. Add basil and stir.
- Ladle into soup bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.
Bonus Recipe: Veggie Lasagna
This recipe is a great way to clean out your veggie drawer. You could really add in almost any veggies you want (eggplant and carrots would be great additions).
- 1/2 lb. lasagna noodles, cooked, drained, and cut in half
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 15 oz container ricotta (I used the part skim ricotta)
- Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
- While preparing the pasta (boiling water, salting water, cooking noodles, etc.), prepare the sauce and filling.
(This will make about double what you need. I froze the extra)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 onion, medium dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp dried basil (to your preference)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute more, then add the crushed tomatoes and basil.
- Once the sauce begins begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar and stir. Set aside half of sauce for another use (I froze it to make another lasagna at another time, or to use as pizza sauce).
- 1 + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, medium dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1/2 zucchini, medium dice
- 1/2 red bell pepper, medium dice
- 1/2 christophine, medium dice
- 3 callaloo leaves, stemmed, rolled, sliced and chopped (see instructions above)
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- While the sauce is cooking, prepare the veggie filling.
- In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté one minute more.
- Note: When preparing the veggies I did the same thing that I did for the minestrone. Once the onion goes in the pan, cut and add the rest in the order listed as they are prepared. When it comes time to add the callaloo, move the veggies to the outer edge of the pan, add the remaining olive oil to the center of the pan and add the callaloo in in batches to the olive oil, stirring to incorporate in with the other veggies.
- Season with salt, pepper, and basil. I seasoned this pretty aggressively. You want it to taste just over salted. I think I used about 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt, maybe more. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the callaloo is wilted down and the veggies are softened, but not mushy (about 5 more minutes).
- Remove veggies from heat and add 3/4 of your prepared sauce (well, 3/4 of the half that you made), stirring to incorporate. Reserve remaining 1/4.
Build the Lasagna
- In a 9 x 9 inch (or similar, I used a deep round oven proof dish we have) pan, spread a couple spoonfulls of reserved sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay down a layer of noodles, overlapping slightly. Depending on the dimensions of your pan, you may have to do 3 or 4 noodles in one direction and another perpendicular to them to close any gap. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta on top of the noodles, spread 1/3 of the veggie mixture over top, and sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella and parmesan (I didn’t measure these, I just eyeballed).
- Repeat layering, twice.
- Top third layer with a final layer of noodles (you may find yourself with extra noodles). Spread the remaining reserved sauce on top, then dot with the remaining ricotta.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.
- Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Return to oven and bake ten more minutes.
- Turn oven to broil (or, in our case, turn the oven all the way up and put the lasagna in the broiler). Broil 1-2 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
- Remove from oven. If you have the patience to let it sit for about 10 minutes before slicing, that’s cool. I don’t, so I cut and served it immediately.
PS – I highly recommend the focaccia recipe. I topped ours with caramelized onions and garlic, rosemary, marinated artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives.