I don’t know about you, but my brain feels like a bit of a scattered mess these days. I feel as if I’m spread between a million places and thoughts and people and stages right now, perpetually feeling as if I’ve forgotten something and I need to make progress on another thing and really when it comes down to it – i’m just unfocused. There are SO many wonderful opportunities coming my way, but unfortunately at such a rapid velocity that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.I fantasize about a life with focus and precision. Where I thrive in moments in which I’m working endlessly to perfect one little project or task or creation. Instead I live in a sort of divided chaos – everything I do is split between screens and friends and projects and activities – without a cohesive thread or linearity to guide.I’m not sure my brain even functions in a one-track manner anymore. Even as I write this post, I’m simultaneously reading Joy the Baker’s blog for book suggestions, scanning Amazon for that adapter I need, and my iPad sits to my left while my iPhone is to the right. What has become of me? I’m a product of the generation, I s’pose.In this midst of distraction – I do find moments of focused creativity, often channeled into culinary productivity. One of those moments hit last week when I recreated my Aunt Kathy’s delicious Tuscan Vegetable Soup recipe. My aunt Kathy, who developed the recipe, is a phenomenal cook. Pretty much rivaling Ina Garten, she’s shown me how to effortlessly host family gatherings and prepare sumptuous, yet simple meals. She knows flavors and techniques, and doesn’t mess by throwing a million ingredients at something, like many of us tend to do. So – the point is, I trust this recipe. This is a tried and true classic in our family, primarily because, well, it’s impossible to screw up. In fact – I don’t believe it’s ever tasted the same way twice, whether my mom, my aunt or I have made it.Nutritious, flavorful & protein-packed, this soup is perfection on a cold winter day. Blending half of it just near the end lends the soup a wonderful creaminess, making it feel more indulgent than it really is.
AUNT KATHY’S TUSCAN VEGETABLE SOUP* (serves 6-8)
*happily modified to the discretion of whoever is cooking it
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 large white onions
• 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
• 2-3 carrots, chopped
• handful of mushrooms
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes or 3 large diced fresh tomatoes
• 2 cartons broth (chicken or vegetable)
• 2 16-oz. cans of cannellini beans (or any bean of your choice – i prefer half cannellini / half chickpea but any combo would be great)
• 1 large potato, diced (i prefer sweet)
• 1 small squash or zucchini
• handful of green beans
• 1-2 cups chopped escarole (or spinach)
• fresh basil to garnish
1. sauté onions and olive oil on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
2. add chopped celery, carrots and mushrooms. sauté for another 10 minutes.
3. add minced garlic & sauté another minute.
4. add tomatoes and turn heat to high.
5. after a couple minutes, add 2 cartons of broth, stirring to incorporate.
6. dump in one 16-oz can of beans. puree the second can of beans in a food processor or blender, then add that to the soup as well.
7. add diced potato, then squash & green beans.
8. simmer for 30 minutes.
9. add escarole and simmer for another 10 minutes.
10. mash half of the soup with an immersion blender, or in a food processor.
11. incorporate back into the soup and mix together to desired consistency
12. serve with parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil!