End-of-Summer Minestrone

summer stir-fry

Today is the last day of summer and tomorrow marks the first day of autumn. The seasons seem to come and go so quickly that just as you were settling in and enjoying it, the next thing you know, it's over. Even though summer is ending, much of the gorgeous produce still lingers on. So there's no reason to be switching to all pumpkins and root vegetables just yet when the markets are stocked with summer goods.

A summer soup is the perfect recipe for using up that straggling produce. Leafy greens, zucchini, peppers, string beans—they all have a terrific place in the classic Italian minestrone. It's a soup that's both refreshing and hearty, filling but not heavy. It's the ideal transitional recipe for the changing season. Plus it makes for the kind of meal the whole family will love—a big one-pot dish.

Minestrone can have any kind of vegetable you wish—any of your favorites work here. So there's no worrry if you're short on an ingredient or two from the list. My recipe is entirely vegetarian, almost vegan except for the rind of cheese, which adds lots of salty flavor. You could also make the recipe with chicken broth. But I like the veg option, because I can serve it to all my family and friends without worry. You'll gain their endless praises with this recipe.

End-of-Summer Minestrone
Note: With a nod to Italian custom, I like to serve the soup with pesto. No one ever complains about more flavor.

olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
8 cups vegetables stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 Parmesan rind
1 rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound thin green beans, cut into short lenghts
4 small red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 small zucchini, cut into half moons
1 small bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn
Perfect Pesto, for serving

Warm oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Pour in stock and add tomatoes, cheese, and herbs. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Add green beans and kale. Cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and zucchini. Cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Check seasoning. Serve the soup in large bowls with a dollop of pesto in each. Yield: 6 servings.