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LENTIL MINESTRONE

February 22, 2012 10:51 pm 0 comments

Lentil Minestrone is a healthy, nutritious classic Italian vegetable soup. The best part about minestrone is that, there is no set recipe or rule in making excepting using any vegetable of your choice to make this a delectable dish. Lentil Minestrone often contains assorted lentils (dried beans) and pasta which is economical and an excellent source of proteins.

Minestrone is a thick soup from the Italian origin made with vegetable often prepared with addition of pasta or rice. Other common ingredients included are beans, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes and stock. Minestrone can absolutely be a vegetarian or just non-vegetarian or a mix of both; however the base of minestrone is bean broth. It is considered as one of the cornerstones of Italian cuisine and is almost as common as pasta on Italian tables.

Lentils are highly nutritious and readily available in dried form. They are remarkable addition to many recipes and staple for vegetarians. Lentils and beans are the common ingredients in every Indian kitchen. As Indian food is rich in spices and flavors, on the other hand they are loaded with a variety of beans, pulses, grains, lentil and legumes. Ancient books of India mention of pulses and legumes, moreover, split peas have a very old history as cultivated before 6000 BC in the ancient near east. Broad beans were the most important crop since medieval times. Also, there is a mention of lentils on the royal graves of Ancient Egypt. Legumes were very highly regarded in the ancient world.

Some of the earliest origins of minestrone soup pre-date the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome into what became the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, when the local diet was “vegetarian by necessity and consisted mostly of vegetables, such as onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, fava beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus and turnips. The ancient Romans recognized the health benefits of a simple diet and thick vegetable soups and vegetables that remained a staple. In the mid 16th century, from the Americas, the introduction of tomatoes and potatoes changed the soup by making available two ingredients which have since become staples.

Due to its unique origins and the absence of a fixed recipe, minestrone varies widely across Italy depending on traditional cooking times, ingredients, and season. Minestrone ranges from a thick and dense texture with very boiled-down vegetables, to a more brothy soup with large quantities of diced and lightly cooked vegetables that may include meats. In modern Italian there are three words corresponding to the English word ‘soup’: zuppa, which is used in the sense of tomato soup, or fish soup. Minestrone alla Genovese is a variant typical of Liguria, which contains greater use of herbs, including pesto.

To prepare this appetizing Lentil Minestrone, heat little oil in a wide soup pot and when the oil gets heated, add onions. Saute over high heat stirring frequently until lightly browned, for about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, parsley, garlic and vegetables and cook for 3 minutes more. Add lentils, aromatics (fresh herbs) and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes and add 2 teaspoons of salt and season with pepper and additional salt if desired to taste.

Add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. Remove the aromatics. Boil the greens in salted water until they are tender and bright green, chop them coarsely. Just before serving, add the greens and the cooked pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of freshly crushed pepper and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Any embellishment comes from the chunk of Parmesan cheese adds extra flavor and texture to the soup.  This makes the soup taste better, perhaps because it’s easier to get a little bite of everything in each spoonful.

Tip: Do not add fresh herbs until the very end of cooking. The delicate flavors will be most enjoyable if you toss your freshly chopped herbs in at the end of whatever you’re making. The residual heat from the dish is enough to carry the flavors through. This applies to pepper, too. Try using fresh cracked pepper, from whole peppercorns, added at the end over your dish. You’ll be astounded at the difference in flavor compared to pre-ground pepper.

Lentils have a lot of healthy benefits thus making this dish very tasty and nutritious. Lentils are easy to prepare and store. They are a good source of protein, phosphorus, vitamin B, calcium, and iron. They are beneficial for diabetic patients and provide anti-aging benefits. They are also healthy for our heart. Lentils and beans are good for weight management as they are low fat foods.

Hoping that, this gives you an amazing and delectable minestrone recipe. Do try and enjoy the taste of refreshing flavors of this dish. Click here for details of ingredients.

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