Easy MinestroneAt this point in time, do we really need another recipe for minestrone? Well, I always seem to respond to one. I feel like I’m guaranteed taste success. The “Easy Minestrone,” (recipe below) from Cook’sIllustrated.com, interested me due to its use of ever-convenient frozen vegetables. Sure enough, I made a very easy and delicious soup, full of tomatoey goodness.

Serves 4 to 6
Small pasta shapes such as orzo and ditalini work best in this hearty, easy-to-make soup. Look for an “Italian Blend” of frozen zucchini, carrots, broccoli, and beans in your supermarket’s frozen section.

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 onions, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pasta, dry (see above)
1 (16-oz.) bag frozen vegetables (see above)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Bring broth, beans, and tomatoes to boil in large saucepan.

Meanwhile, heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth mixture and pasta and simmer until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in vegetables and basil and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with additional olive oil for drizzling.

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I chose “Thai-” and “Chinese-” style frozen mixes, rather than an “Italian-blend.” I used vegetable-bouillon broth and kidney beans (rather than cannellini beans). For the pasta, I used Eden Organic Vegetable Alphabets (why not?!). I didn’t bother cooking this soup in a Dutch oven; a regular, big soup pot worked fine. I added 2 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of black pepper to my soup.

Crab CakesHow often do you make crab cakes? I certainly don’t, but they’re a great treat. The “Crab Cakes,” from Cooking with the Diabetic Chef, made big, hearty cakes that held together well. I purchased 1 lb. of lump crab meat for $20. A bit pricey? Well, the price comes to $5 per cake: not too bad (and of course, if you were in a restaurant, you’d probably pay $12 for that crab cake, without blinking). I cooked my cakes for 20 minutes.

The finished cakes were undramatic and cried out for some sort of sauce. So I quickly combined some mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and capers, and drizzled this on my cakes -- that did the trick. We enjoyed this meal.

RECIPES: this is a quick, simple, tasty meal that will dazzle your diners, in a hushed sort of way
eat your meal in 30 minutes
the tomatoey soup and the crabby cakes are heartily satisfying

Next time, I’ll take you on a personal tour of the city of Montréal. Dave and I ate our way through the city at the end of April 2008. Return to my site on Wednesday, June 4, where I’ll take you on my food trip.