WRITTEN ON January 8th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Beans, Dinner, Italian, No really, what IS for lunch?, Pasta, Soups, Tomatoes, Vegetables

I rode the elevator yesterday with a man who complained bitterly of the cold weather we’ve been having.  In fact, that’s pretty much all I’ve heard about since New Years.

Every day, the weatherman talks about the “deep freeze in the Northeast,” or the latest cold snap. My doorman keeps telling me to “stay warm!” and several people in my life were shocked and amazed that we went to Vermont last week.  “That must have been SOOOOOO cold.  Did you survive?” (No.  I did not survive. I’m in fact emailing you from the great beyond.  Though I will say you might like it.  It’s quite warm down here.)

Aside from the fact that excessive caps and the over use of the letter “O” are a massive pet peeve of mine, I’m also increasingly amazed that this weather seems to be a surprise to people.  Are they serious?  Do they know where they live?  It’s the Northeast.  It’s January.  And frankly, it’s 33 degrees!  Positively balmy when compared to the temps in, say, Fargo. Were it late March, I’d be in their camp entirely.  But this is why you chose to live in a place with seasons.  To everything, turn, turn turn, as the Byrds (or the Bible, whichever you prefer) would say. It shouldn’t be that big of a shock.

I realize that it’s likely more of a nervous habit, or conversation starter, than any real concern.  “Stay warm!” becomes January’s “How are you?” I get it.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

In honor of all the wimps out there who should probably be living in more southern climes, I made a huge pot of minestrone earlier this week.  It served as the hubster’s lunch since Tuesday (I may have already broken my resolutions, but his, not surprisingly, are firmly in tact.  Bring lunch, save money, eat healthy.  Sometimes he is so annoying).

Whip up a pot of this and eat it with some crusty bread and a bottle of red wine.  You’ll be toasty in no time (in more ways than one).  Nothing to do on Sunday (besides watching the Ravens show Tom Brady who’s boss)? Why not try this recipe, serve it for dinner, and save the leftovers for your lunches next week.  It’s supposed to be 35 on Monday!  Egads! Stay warm (she says with a cringe)!

Get it while it's hot! Minestrone (makes about 6 servings)
4 oz pancetta, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped similar in size to your carrots
1 medium onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1/4 small head of green cabbage, sliced thinly
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes, with juices
10 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup small dried pasta, such as cavitelli, elbows or small shells
1 28 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 3 inch chunk of rind of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
In a large stock pot, drizzle a small amount of olive oil.  Cook pancetta over medium heat in oil, about 6 minutes, until fat has rendered.  Add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until nicely browned and beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add zucchini and cabbage, cook about 2 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, stock, dried seasoning and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 15 minutes.  In a bowl, mash half of the beans.  Add whole and mashed beans to the soup.  Season soup with salt and pepper, add parsley and cheese rind. Bring to a boil again, then add pasta.  If you are serving right away, make sure pasta is cooked through.  If you plan to make in advance and reheat throughout the week, cook pasta only halfway, keeping it very al dente. Check for seasoning, remove bay leaf before serving!

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