Everybody into the pool. If you're facing a mountain of vegetables -- either from your garden or over-zealous farmer's market shopping -- we suggest making your first hot soup of the season.
After consulting five minestrone recipes, we followed none. Let your vegetable collection lead and see where your minestrone goes. After all, we hear the word "minestrone" has become a synonym for "hodgepodge".
Here's our riff on late summer minestrone:
We started the soup by cooking a few slices of left over prosciutto in olive oil. You could use bacon or pancetta, of course. Then, we added the celery, carrots, and hard-neck garlic into the hot oil. After the aromatics cooked in the oil for about 10 minutes, we added tomatoes, parsley, arugula, an ear of corn, zucchini, summer squash, bush basil and thyme. We cooked those vegetables for about five miutes more.
Just about the only vegetables that were safe from this soup were eggplant and cucumber. We didn't think they'd work here.
To make our broth richer, we added two spoonfuls of tomato paste and let that cook in for a few minutes. Then, we filled our soup pot with water (we could have used chicken stock, but didn't have any), a bay leaf, two handfulls of fresh cranberry beans, and a Parmesan rind (hope you save them for soups!). After the soup got to a boil, and turned the heat down to medium and let it cook for a half-hour.
We cut up some stale baguette to serve as impromptu croutons. We served our soup with a glug of olive oil and grated some cheese on top.
What a send-off to the produce we've been enjoying this summer.