My heart skipped a beat last weekend when the realization hit me that the end to the bounty of summer was coming soon. I love fall, but I really embraced the concept of eating whatever’s in season this summer. There were times I didn’t think there would be enough tomatoes and basil to go around. So, in a panic, I stopped at the farm nearby and raided them of more than my usual daily allotment of goodies. When faced with an assortment of ingredients, there’s only a few obvious choices: pizza (it’s a blank canvas after all; anything goes), casseroles, or soup. Enter Maryland Minestrone.
Since I am the Soup Nazi (yes, I stole that from Seinfeld) of the family, I love to see what variations of soup I can come up with. The secret of any great soup is the stock, and I learned long ago from Chef Jeff (a.k.a., my brother) that you should rarely ever throw away or even compost food scraps until it’s given its last essence in a big pot of water. Tip #1: keep a gallon-sized resealable bag in in the freezer; every time you cut onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, etc., put the ends and skins in the bag; when it’s full, put the contents in a big pot covered with water, add a bay leaf or 2 and some salt and pepper, and simmer until it’s a rich brown (from the onion skins) – a couple of hours; drain and use or freeze. Tip #2: Add some with bones (I roast them at 450 for 20-60 minutes first) for a meat stock or shells (crab, shrimp, clam, etc.) for a seafood stock. Your soups will thank you.
We got some steamed crabs a few weeks back, and I went a little overboard making a LOT of stock. Well, since crabs are a Maryland signature item, some of that just had to go into the pot. Add some local corn, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, and tomatoes (everything fresh at the moment), and you’ve got Maryland Minestrone soup to capture the summer sun for dinner tonight and to remind you of warmer days in the winter.
Maryland Minestrone Soup (serves as few or as many as you want based on how crazy you get buying the veggies; freezes very well if you go overboard as I did)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped (optional, but I think it adds that Minestrone flare to the soup)
1-2 zucchini (depending on the size; I used medium sized, about 1 1/2 inches thick), quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick slices
1 yellow squash, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 bag of fresh green beans (about 3 cups), stemmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (don’t cook first if you use frozen, just add them with the corn)
2 cups small red, fingerling, or new potatoes quartered or halved (depending on size)
2 28-ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes with the juice (cut up or crush the tomatoes first)
4 ears of corn, steamed for 10 minutes and kernels cut off the cob with the steaming water reserved (or about 2 cups of frozen corn)
3 cups crab stock (if you don’t have some, you can use clam juice and add some Old Bay to get more depth of flavor)
3-4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock 1 bay leaf
1 Tbls. Old Bay seasoning, to taste (you may need more if your crab stock is lightly seasoned)
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion, carrots, celery, and parsnip in stock or olive oil over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes stirring often until beginning to get tender. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, and green beans (and more stock or oil if needed), and saute for another 5-7 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and their juice and the corn; stir to distribute evenly. Then add the crab stock, 3 cups of the chicken/vegetable stock (you can add the last cup if it’s too thick or you just want more broth to your soup), and the reserved corn water (the starch helps thicken the soup), bay leaf, Old Bay, and salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes until the corn is heated through and the soup starts to look thicker. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Enjoy!
If you want to add some protein, some chopped chicken or northern beans work well.