Saturday, December 17, 2011

"End of Spring" Ministrone with Rocket, Spinach & Walnut Pesto and Cookbook Sundays # 2

"End of Spring" Minestrone 3

It's been a funny old week.  It may be the start of summer here but, with torrential rain and heavy flooding in many parts of Nelson, it's felt rather more like winter.  Many families in our city had to be evacuated from their homes, either because of flooding or because of danger from hillside slips.  Thankfully, we live high enough on a hill to escape flooding and were lucky enough not to be subjected to any slips either.  A special thanks also to so many of you for your kind thoughts and concerns for my safety - your thoughtfulness never ceases to warm my heart and is a constant reminder of the joys of belonging to this food blogging "family".

So, after all that rain something warming, nourishing and comforting seemed to be called for, but at the same time I wasn't wanting anything too heavy.  When I came across this recipe for Spring Ministrone in Super Natural Cooking (one of my favourite cookbooks) by Heidi Swanson it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  I also knew that this would be perfect for my contribution this week to Cookbook Sundays (read more about that at the end of this post).

For this soup brown rice is cooked in a light vegetable broth, with spring vegetables (I used asparagus, zucchini, and peas) added right at the end, so that the vegetables are still bright green and crispy.  I made a pesto from some spinach and rocket (arugula) I'd harvested from my garden, and topped the soup with a generous dollop of that, along with some freshly grated lemon zest and shaved pecorino cheese.

"End of Spring" Minestrone 1

I know that there are amongst you those who love soup and could eat it (or should that be drink it) just about every day of the week.  I am not such a person.  I don't mind a bowl of soup now and again, but you know maybe 6-8 bowls of soup in the whole year is probably about my fix.  It is not something I would ever order in a restaurant, unless of course it's an Asian restaurant of some sort, in which case there is a very strong possibility that I would order the noodle or wonton soup.  This doesn't count as one of the 6-8 bowls of soup previously mentioned, as I think of this as noodles, not soup - those are the rules!  My other soup rule is that I almost never have soup in summer.

Now, I've got to say this .... this soup just broke all of my soup rules.  This is quite possibly the best soup I've ever tasted - at least, the best one that I've ever made, and you know what?  This soup is definitely going to have me exceeding my annual soup quota - in fact there is a good chance I'll exceed that before the week is out.  This is a soup that I could really eat every single day - of course, things like asparagus and fresh peas won't be around for much longer, but I will be making the most of it while they're still here.

The nuttiness and chewiness of the brown rice gives that little bit of "comfort factor" and enough substance to be able to make a meal out of this.  The crisp, green vegetables provide a lovely textural balance to the rice, while the hit of fresh lemon and fragrant pesto keeps the spring-like freshness in this dish.

Of course, you could swap out the vegetables I used with all sorts of other alternatives:  green beans, snow peas, broad beans, artichoke hearts, edamame, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy.  Just keep it green would be my mantra here - save the carrots, pumpkin, corn, etc, for something else.  I urge you to try it - I know you won't be disappointed.

"End of Spring" Minestrone 2

"End of Spring" Ministrone with Rocket, Spinach & Walnut Pesto
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson from
Makes 4 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For the soup:
2x tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2x shallots, thinly sliced
1x garlic clove, minced
1x cup brown rice, rinsed
6x cups vegetable stock
2x zucchini, thinly sliced
8x asparagus spears, cut on the diagonal into 2.5 cm (1 in) lengths
1x cup freshly shelled green peas (frozen is fine too)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto:
3x large handfuls of rocket (arugula) & spinach leaves
1x large handful of toasted walnut pieces
2x cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
flaky sea salt

To serve:
freshly grated zest of 1x lemon
pecorino cheese, freshly shaved

Begin with the soup.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic to the pan, and saute for a couple of minutes until the shallots have softened and the garlic is fragrant.  Add the rice, and cook for a minute, stirring constantly until every grain of rice is coated in the oil.  Now add the stock to the pan, bring up to the boil, then cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile make the pesto.  Put the walnuts, rocket, spinach, garlic and salt into a food processor and pulse until the leaves and nuts start to break down. Then leaving the motor running, begin to add the oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth paste. Remove to a bowl, stir in the grated pecorino, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Now back to the soup.  Once the rice is tender, add the vegetables and season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Simmer for just 2 or 3 minutes, so that the vegetables are still bright green and crisp, add freshly grated lemon zest, and serve immediately.

Ladle into bowls, add some fresh shavings of pecorino cheese to each bowl, and top each with a generous dollop of the pesto.

Cookbook Sundays Badge 

Earlier I mentioned Cookbook Sundays.  What is that all about, you are perhaps wondering.  Well, if you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from.  Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen.  There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book.  Sound a bit familiar?!

Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that.  Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks.  And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me.  Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.

The rules for joining in are simple:
  1. Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
  2. Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post.  Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
  3. You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like.  Old posts are also welcome.
  4. Lastly,  remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants. 
Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking!  Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions.  The linky will be open for one week.

Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post.  Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.


I'm also sharing this post at Souper Sundays, hosted by the lovely Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, at My Meatless Mondays, hosted by Chaya at My Sweet & Savory; and at See Ya in the Gumbo hosted by Michelle at Ms. enPlace.


  1. Yum. I've just. Bought this book for my friend for.christmasso now motivated to steal a few recipes before wrapping. So glad you are ok have been thinking of you. Tale care.

  2. I have this book on my Christmas list. After inv seeing this post I hope Santa didn't forget.

  3. That is a lovely healthy bowl of soup! I do read her blog often but have not tried anything yet, though I have bookmarked a few!
    I have just linked up a corn bread.
    Have a lovely day!

  4. HA, I love your soup rules. I am quite the opposite, I have soup about every week and even in the summer. The bright green color of this dish is so lovely and is making me long for spring (but I am still loving the winter produce available here!)

  5. I think you could be right about this being the new favourite soup. I love soup in winter but not so much Spring/Summer.....but like you , this one looks like converting me. And a great idea to dust off some old cookbooks :)

  6. I am glad to hear the you are ok where you live, and feel sorry for those who had slips and flooding. We had lots of rain too, but I left on Friday night, is is still raining now?

    For the recipe: I love these kinds of soups, I could have a minestrone with seasonal vegetables every day without problem, and I love to add pesto to it (in Italian we say to 'reinforce it"). And I'll give you a +1 for this because it is so green, and green food is my favourite :-)!


  7. @Domestic Executive Thanks, Julie. Your friend is going to love the book, but definitely snaffle a few recipes before wrapping it up xo

  8. @Allison Hope Santa is on the ball - you'll love the book xo

  9. @kitchen flavours Thanks, Joyce. I love Heidi's blog - one of my favourites. You must try some of those things you have bookmarked - you'll love them for sure. Thanks for sharing your corn bread with Cookbook Sundays xo

  10. @Nico Thanks, Nico. The colour is beautiful, but spring vegetables are disappearing too fast!!

  11. @Mairi@Toast Mairi, once you try this, I know you'll be hooked xo

  12. I am so sad to hear about all the flooding but glad your okay! This soup looks amazing! It is the perfect way to incorporate veggies in the winter. I always like to use zucchini mine too but never tried it was pesto so I am glad to see this new version

  13. @Alessandra Thanks, Alessandra. We really got off very lightly. I tried the pesto in a cauliflower soup I made a couple of months ago, and I loved it so much I can hardly think of soup without it now. I think the Italian term of "reinforcing" the soup is perfect - that seems to be exactly what it does. xo

  14. @Kitchen Belleicious Thanks, Allison. The pesto is a winner - hope you try it. I am already starting to imagine winter versions of this soup xo

  15. I love the green of all those spring vegetables and pesto. I go through stages of not making soup for about 6 months and then making it all the time so I understand how you feel about soup.

  16. Hi Sue-I am happy to link up with you for the Cookbook Sundays with my grandchildren's decorated Chocolate Drop cookies that I made for them! (could you please remove the botched up 1st one?)...tried to crop photo, and it just clicked on, anyway!

    Your soup is so healthy, and delicious. Love the pesto addition to it. Photos are amazing, as well!

    Last, but not glad that your home did not get affected by all the flood, and hillside sliding. So sad to hear about the damage of the other homes. Glad that you are safe and sound!

  17. Thanks for hosting! This soup looks like a great celebration of spring. It's fun to make pesto with something other than basil and pine nuts.

  18. Very appetizing summer-ry soup! I'm totaklly a soup person all year round. Growing up in Singapore, we often had soup as one of the dishes to eat with our rice, often during dinner. Light clear soups though, not heavy creamy ones. Helps to 'wash' down the meal.

    Glad to know you're well away from the deluge and safe and sound! :)

  19. @Elisabeth Thanks for kind thoughts and comments, Elisabeth, and thank you for linking up your Chocolate Drop Cookies. Decorating them with your grandchildren must have been great fun, and would surely make the cookies taste even better xo

  20. @Corina Thanks Corina - we could be soup soulmates :-)

  21. @MM Thanks Michelle. I love experiementing with other herbs and nuts for pestos too. So many wonderful flavour combinations to try, and they often work out a lot cheaper than basil and pine nuts which are very expensive here.

  22. @Sugar and Spice I love those light, clear broths - miso soup too - I should probably make things like that more often xo

  23. You know me and soup--I eat a lot of it all year round. ;-) That being said this one does look amazing--I love how fresh and green it looks. Thanks for sharing it with Souper Sundays!

    I didn't cook much this week but I plan on joining in Cookbook Sundays soon. ;-)

  24. @Deb in Hawaii Thanks, Deb - I do know how much you love your soups :-) It was fun to join in with Souper Sundays - will definitely do it again. Look forward to having you here for Cookbook Sundays some time.

  25. Tis is deffinattely going to be on my list, lovely summer soup and the pesto just makes it feel. Glad you are coping in Nelson, what dreadful weather we are having, I'm going tomrethink the Christmas day menu to something heartier.

  26. @peasepudding Thanks, Alli - hope you enjoy it. We seem to be over the worst of the weather now and the forecast looks good for the rest of the week, so I'm hoping to hit the beach on Christmas day xo

  27. Cookbook Sundays, what a great idea! Your version of Heidi's soup looks lovely, beautiful photos too!

  28. Heidi is such a genius when it comes to flavors and simply delicious meals! I love the sound of this soup...can't wait for spring to come here in the northern hemisphere so I can make it!

  29. I am glad you started this linky. It is going to keep me more attached to my cookbooks.
    Your soup is an inspiration. I want to make it.

  30. Glad to hear you're safe!
    This soup looks amazing! Such beautiful fresh green colours, I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  31. Ha! That's exactly why I like using other nuts--pine nuts are too expensive!
    Thanks for linking up, Sue!

  32. I have come to redeem myself. I had to leave for work before, I got to putting up the Cookbook Sundays badge. I now, have it in four places with my apologies. I will try to behave in the future. :)

  33. Good morning, Sue! I've linked a Chili recipe to share! Have a nice day!

  34. I have Heidi's cookbook and funny thing I just picked it up today in my office and thought I need to make something from this book.

  35. Even though I'm not the biggest soup fiend, I do love homemade minestrone, whatever the season. Love that this uses seasonal vegetables and is so green!

    Glad to hear you were okay during the rough weather, poor old Nelson!

  36. @Emma Galloway Thanks, Emma - pretty hard to go wrong with any of Heidi's recipes xo

  37. @Joanne Agree - Heidi is a total genius - she is definitely one of my food heroes xo

  38. @MM I like using toasted sunflower seeds sometimes too xo

  39. @Bizzy B. Bakes No problem, Chaya, and thanks for sharing the badge xo

  40. @angela@spinachtigerHi Angela - hope you choose a nice recipe from Heidi's book - there are so many good ones to pick from xo

  41. @hungryandfrozen Thanks Laura - I tink this is the perfect soup for non-soup fiends xo

  42. I do like soup, and this one looks so good!
    Great idea to go back through some of your old cookbooks.

  43. Thank you for sharing this lovely post with The New Year Edition of the Gallery of Favorites. This sounds like such a wonderful soup, wholesome and delicious without being heavy. I think the spinach, rocket and walnut pesto sounds amazing too, and I can imagine all sorts of other uses for it as well as this yummy soup. I can definitely see why the soup will have you exceeding your soup quota for this year! Thank you so much again for sharing it, and Happy New Year!


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