Thursday, November 10, 2011

Soup is ON!

Yes, I'm sewing dresses. Every spare minute I have. Which means I need some easy-ish dinners, preferably involving my dreamy slow cooker. And I do understand that easy-ish to me might be intimidating to others - long lists of ingredients don't frighten me away. Love them.

So here's what is going into the slow cooker at lunch time, and into bowls at dinner time, and into the freezer after that (because it makes a boatload!). I confess the minestrone bug bit me hard after a trip to Olive Garden back in August. I promise, this soup is a bazillion times better. I made a few changes to the original recipe - I cook the sausage right in the slow cooker (because I can do that in mine) so that later I'm cooking the veg in the fat from the sausage rather than a drizzle of olive oil. I know olive oil is better for you, but it's about layering flavor. Why waste that sausage fat? Not this girl. Course, I've been known to use bacon fat at times. That's my Southern heritage there, y'all!

Sausage Minestrone Soup with Orzo
adapted from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound hot Italian sausage
3 T. olive oil (if you must)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
12 cups chicken stock (no kidding!)
4 cups tomato juice
2 bay leaves
1 can (16 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 zucchini, diced
1-2 summer squash, diced
1/2 c. dried orzo
3 T. chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

First, cook your sausage. If you are lucky enough to have a slow cooker that lets you brown your meat first, do this. If you are using a pot on the stove, you can do the same thing. I'm not sure how this would work in a regular crockpot or slow cooker. I'd just go with the pot on the stove.

So cook your sausage and then set it aside. If you're the healthy sort, drain off the sausage fat and add the olive oil. If you're the healthy but like more flavor sort, just keep your sausage fat and add your onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Saute for 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, stock, tomato juice, bay leaves, chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans and cooked sausage. Bring to a boil. If using a slow cooker, transfer it and cook on low for about four hours. If using a pot, reduce heat to medium and simmer 40 minutes, adding more stock if too much liquid evaporates (not a problem with the slow cooker).

Remove and discard the bay leaves (or leave them in and then assign dishes to whomever gets them in their bowl).

Add the zucchini, squash and orzo. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Stir in the basil, salt and pepper.

This freezes beautifully.


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