Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Montauk Minestrone

Swiss chard in a late-October garden behind deer fence.

No two minestrone recipes should ever come out the same. It’s un-Italian.

Minestrone means “the one soup” ~ the one to be concocted with as many different ingredients in one pot as possible. The most important consideration for minestrone is what vegetables are ripe in the garden.

In late October, in Montauk, the Swiss chard is ready for the soup pot. Tomatoes on the vine are showing the melancholy spots of age, but inside they are sweetly ripe and full of faintly fermented juice. Local onions and garlic are available at every roadside stand. There is also local celery, carrots, potatoes and parsley.

Soon after the first hard frost, perhaps before Thanksgiving, there will be the best collards.

For the back of the stove Montauk soup pot, here is a matrix minestrone soup recipe from Dawn Rennar, in whose garden, tended by her husband, Ed Rennar, the Swiss chard grows.

Dawn says, “Swiss chard comes in a rainbow of colors (the stalks, that is). The stalks are tough unless you chop them small and cook them long. When I harvest Swiss chard, I cut each stalk close to the ground. Then, in my kitchen sink, I rinse the stalks carefully in cool water. Often I have to double rinse them to remove any sand or dirt or bugs. (We do not use synthetic chemical pesticides, you know.) I use the chard right away. If you must save picked chard for another day, you ought to dry the leaves and stems and store them wrapped in paper towels and then in a plastic bag to keep the moisture away from the leaves for prolonged life. Sometimes the leaves are very large, so I separate the leaves from the stalks and maybe even have to cut the leaves in half so I don't crush or overcrowd them in the plastic, for obvious reasons."

Montauk Minestrone Soup


2 TB freshest olive oil

1 russet potato peeled, chopped

1 onion peeled, chopped

1 LB. skinned and chopped tomatoes

2 large carrots peeled and diced

1 15 OZ. CAN cannelli beans

2 celery stalks chopped

1 LB. Swiss chard, coarsely chopped

1 32 OZ BOX chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 TB fresh Italian parsley plus more to garnish

3 OZ. piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind

To Prepare:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavyweight soup pot over medium heat.

Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic.

Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add Swiss chard and potatoes and sauté about two minutes more.

Add tomatoes (with any escaped juice) and simmer until the Swiss chard is wilted and the tomatoes are very soft. About 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, blend ¾ cup of cannelli beans with ¼ cup broth in a food processor until smooth.

Add bean mixture and remaining broth to pot. Stir until all is incorporated.

Add cheese rind.

Cook over low heat until the soup thickens, about three to five minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Before serving the soup, remove the cheese rind.


A Grandaddy Blackfish (or Tautog)

After the First Frosts in November on Montauk comes the time for tall, bejeweled stalks of green Brussels sprouts, gold and ruby Swiss chard and a bounty of white, dry and delicately flavored Atlantic blackfish. Recipes coming soon.

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