Minestrone

Originally uploaded by tostadora.

The new box is arriving soon, or is already gracing your fridge with fresh, sprightly produce. But you still have a couple of carrots, some wilting celery, a couple of onions and a couple of kilos of cabbage from last week's box.

It's frustrating, but I just can't stand to compost these left-overs so I find it useful to have a couple of stand-by dishes for using up all-and-sundry. Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink recipes.

One of these ultra-useful dishes, during the summer at least, is Minestrone. I got the original recipe from Claudia Roden's 'The Food of Italy', a practical, unfussy collection of Italian recipes, organised by region.

Here's watcha do. More or less…

Sweat chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Chop into smallish cubes the following [delete according to availability]: courgette, peppers, fennel, potatoes, tomatoes, celery, carrots. Add them to the onions to sweat and mingle. Season.

At this point it cen be good to add some extra flavourings – try cubes of pancetta, fresh herbs (bay, thyme, perhaps oregano or marjoram), any hard parmesan rind lying around. Allow the flavours to mingle over a low heat.

After a while, add some water or light stock – enough to cover and a bit more. Season and simmer until all the veg is cooked. It's quite a delicate flavour at this point.

Towards the end I like to add some green veg – finely chopped spring greens or cabbage, peas, broad beans or spinach. Don't cook to long or it'll lose that fresh verdant green colour.

It's a subtle flavour so its good to add some potency – a big bowl of fresh pesto, torn basil leaves, parmesan or pungent extra-virgin olive oil. Put all these things on the table and let people grate, pour or spoon-on to their heart's content.

Now you can start on the new stuff with a clear vegbox conscience.


gazpacho

Originally uploaded by tostadora.

The new veg box came today – bursting with bright, red, fresh plump summer veg. I had the day working from home – sitting in the kitchen with the early summer sun streaming in. Everything was pointing to one thing – gazpacho.

I rooted around in various recipe books for a good recipe – some were very simple – just tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar. I wanted to use more of the veg box goodies so half-followed a Jane Grigson recipe. Here’s the basics…

Peel and roughly chop tomatoes and cucumbers. Just chop a red pepper or two. More or less the same amount of each veg. Add strong olive oil and red or white wine vinegar – a few tablespoons of each. Season well. Chop a clove or two of garlic – to taste. Add some white bread (stale preferably) – I just added a pitta bread as that’s all we had in the cupboard.

Blitz everything with enough water to make a slightly grainy textured soup – leaving it thin enough to drink out of a glass. Re-test the amount of salt and vinegar – I like a generous amount of both. Serve in a wine glass, perhaps with ice if it’s a really hot day.

Enjoy in the garden, while glancing through photos of old holidays in Andalucia.