The wonderful thing about minestrone is there are few guidelines. Everybody has a favorite version, but it's usually a variation on beans, onions, tomatoes, and carrots in a broth. Wikipedia says that in Italy, minestrone is is considered cucina povera (literally "poor kitchen"): food for poor folks. Maybe the wealthy can just throw away their extra carrots and leftover kale, but this is 2009, and I don't think there are any wealthy people left. So while you're waiting for your bailout, why not use up food you've already paid for and make minestrone?
I had some onions, celery, and carrots in my fridge that were holding up pretty well, but my potatoes were sprouting and the kale was a week old. Earlier in the week, I roasted several red peppers for another recipe and the extras were sitting charred and soggy in their plastic bag pleading, "Use us!" every time I opened the fridge. Since they weren't very pretty anymore, I pureed them and incorporated them into the broth.
Play with the recipe. If you don't have kale, no big deal. If you don't like garlic as much as I do, cut down the amount or omit it altogether. Toss in any vegetables or beans you want to get rid of, just keep an eye on the solids to liquids ratio and remember that the pasta will soak up some of the broth. I went pretty mellow on the seasoning so as not to overpower the flavor of the roasted peppers. You could use fresh herbs if you have them, but it's winter, so I don't.
Nuevo Great Depression Minestrone2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 small yukon gold potatoes, in bite-sized chunks
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers (canned or home-made)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 15-oz. can chickpeas
3/4 cup elbow macaroni (whole wheat is good here)
salt and pepper to taste
In a blender or food processor, puree roasted red peppers and set aside.
In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sautee onions, celery, and garlic for 5 minutes. Add carrots and herbs and cook for another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, potatoes, pureed peppers, broth, water, and the bay leaf. Increase heat to medium high and simmer 10 minutes. Add chickpeas, kale, and macaroni, and simmer another ten minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper.