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Friday, January 18, 2013

Vegetable Minestrone with Pesto

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I've found that, while on business travel, I can usually eat pretty close to how I normally eat--relatively healthy with a bit of indulgence. There are usually enough options at business conferences that I can put together a healthy meal--oatmeal and fruit for breakfast instead of pastries and sausage, or salad and some chicken or fish for lunch instead of pasta and steak. The problem lies with the sheer amount of food available. An hour and a half after breakfast you're breaking for a snack, where there are granola bars and trail mix available. Soon there's lunch and before you know it, the brownies and candy bars are put out for afternoon snack. Cap the day off with a rich dinner and a few glasses of wine and regardless of how balanced you tried to eat, you still feel a little lethargic from eating all. day. long. 
After a week away, I was more than ready for something a little lighter. This soup was just the thing! I made a big batch last weekend and we enjoyed it for lunches most of the week. I consider it the cold-weather version of my favorite shredded vegetable detox salad! The pesto I made and froze over the summer is coming in handy. The scoop I added to the soup added a brightness and a freshness to remind me that healthy food doesn't have to be boring. Served with homemade rolls on the side, this was just the thing to help me recover from my week of thrice-daily desserts and multiple glasses of wine!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Balsamic Pulled Pork Sliders
Two Years Ago: Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites
Three Years Ago: Thai Turkey Burgers

Vegetable Minestrone with Pesto
slightly adapted from Epicurious.com

-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-3 large stalks celery, chopped
-2 cups shredded carrots
-1 small leek, white and pale green parts only, washed and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
-2 yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
-1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
-1 can (14.5 oz) navy beans
-1 can (24.5 oz) crushed tomatoes, with their juices
-1 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
-1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch long pieces
-1 cup frozen peas
-2 cups loosely packed chopped fresh spinach
-salt & freshly ground pepper
-1/2 cup pesto
-parmesan, for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the onion, celery, leek, carrots, potatoes, and parsley. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes).
2. Add the beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and 2 quarts of water to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, then add the green beans, peas, and spinach. Reduce heat to moderately low and season with salt and pepper. Simmer soup for at least 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
3. Stir in pesto. Divide soup amongst bowls and top with parmesan.