Watching the Food Network as I often do, I recently realized that for foodies like myself much of their programming amounts to culinary pornography. Loving close-ups of glistening and juicy fresh-from-the-oven roasts and such, recipes rendered into soft-voiced sweet-nothings, the chef’s deft hands gingerly kneading and folding and applying spice rubs and oil, the borderline-erotic “money shot” of the cook sampling what they have just prepared with undeniable, closed-eyed pleasure unashamedly smeared across their face… You get the idea.
The program that really drove home the one-handed cookery aspect of these shows is EVERYDAY ITALIAN, hosted by the stunning Giada DeLaurentiis, a Guinzo-licious kitchen goddess who is so cute that you forget her head is disproportionately large, giving her the look of an anthropomorphic bobble-head statue; the second I see her on my TV screen I am hooked for the next half-hour. Giada is utterly charming and clearly takes great delight in what she is doing, making her that much hotter. I often watch her and wish I could say to her “Oh, beautiful Giada, won’t you please come to my kitchen wearing nothing but an apron and share your tasty stuff with me?” but unfortunately I don’t speak Italian.
A couple of days ago I caught her show from the beginning and she announced that the day’s recipe would be her homemade Winter Minestrone soup. Now while I am not much of fan of Italian cuisine — it’s a bit too heavy for me — I am a major freak for Minestrone soup, always keeping at least one can of the Progresso brand on hand at all times. I watched the goddess DeLaurentiis and jotted down her recipe as she walked the viewer through it. Let me tell ya, it’s really simple to make, is absolutely delicious and has made me kiss the canned stuff goodbye from now on. Don’t be intimidated by some of the ingredients; your average eight-year-old could make this with supervision, so what’s stopping you?
PANCHETTA (ITALIAN SORTA-BACON)
CARRROTS CELERY GARLIC
1 RUSSETT POTATO
ROSEMARY (1 BRANCH)
CANNED CRUSHED TOMATOES
CANNED BEANS (BUTTER BEANS, WHATEVER)
FRESH GRATED ROMANO CHEESE
This recipe is pretty much a “by instinct” jobbie, so measure quantities of the ingredients for how many people you want to cook for; I recommend making a big pot of this for yourself and having it around to heat and eat whenever you feel like not cooking. Anyway…
Pour olive oil into your soup pot and let it get hot enough for simmering. Dice your onions, celery and carrots and drop them into the pot, simmering until the onions get translucent. Then add as nay cloves of garlic as you like, making sure that the cloves have been burst and can allow their flavor to escape. Add a pinch of salt and simmer while stirring.
Make sure that you have had your pancetta thin sliced, and then dice it up small. Add it to the vegetables and allow the fat on the pancetta to melt; simmer and stir for ten minutes.
Peel and cube one Russett potato and add it to the simmering goodies; simmer for another ten minutes and add a pinch of salt. Take the Swiss chard and fine chop it, adding it and one branch of fresh rosemary to the simmer. Stir and add a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper. Simmer for ten minutes, covered.
Once you have figured out what kind of canned beans you like — I highly recommend butter beans — take three-quarters of what you intend to use and either puree or crush them until they have a paste-like squashedness. Drop the pasty beans into the simmer, along with enough beef broth to make the soup as thick or thin as you prefer; remember that the crushed/pureed beans act as a thickener so keep that in mind when determining consistency. Add as much fresh ground Romano cheese and stir well. Simmer for fifteen more minutes and then add some finely chopped fresh parsley and the remaining quarter of the uncrushed beans; adding whole beans at the end is strictly a presentation thing, so if you don’t care how it looks you can ignore this bit. But why waste perfectly good beans? Throw the fuckers in there!
And that’s that. I suggest serving it the day after you cook it so it can find its flavor overnight. Damned tasty soup! Now come to me, Giada, you saucy little pomidora...