I didn’t grow up with many males in my life—twelve years in an all-girls’ school and no brother will do that to you—so it wasn’t until high school that I really began to build friendships with them.
Now, thankfully, there are these men in my life whom I love. I mean, really, really love. Men who can make me laugh with a one-line email, men who appreciate the noise my high heels make on pavement, men who care deeply for the people in their life, who watch “The West Wing” on DVD and keep Lincoln biographies and cookbooks and Spanish poetry and young adult fiction all stacked by their bedside.
Who have crushes on Mary Louise Parker. Who have held my hand in art museums, or held me on a couch the night after my father’s funeral, or held their palm gently against the small of my back, ushering me into a door or through a crowded room. Who write the most incredible letters, which I will save forever. Who love their wives, their fiancées, their girlfriends, their sisters, mothers. Who chide me into staying a little longer and drinking another beer (or Scotch or glass of wine). Who will happily eat anything I put in front of them.
I look at my fourteen-year-old male students, who are so earnestly figuring out how to be men, how to flirt, how to build character, integrity, and swagger, and then I look at these men in my life: Dave, Phil, Stephen, Wayne, and I feel tremendous joy for the men I know my boys will grow up to become.
This recipe makes a big batch, but minestrone is the perfect “it’s still cold outside” refrigerator space-taker. I always like to have mine with a good, golden-crusted grilled cheese.
1 large yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
3-4 small zucchini
3-4 small yellow squash
2 bunches fresh spinach (can substitute frozen), washed & roughly chopped
1 large (28 oz.) can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans kidney beans
2 T tomato paste
1 T dried oregano (double if using fresh)
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
secret ingredient: Parmesan rind
optional: a few cups of cooked pasta
Dice the onion & mince the garlic. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat a fair amount of olive oil over medium-high heat. Throw the onions in first and cook until they are a bit brown, then dial back the heat to medium and add the garlic.
While those two ingredients are making your house smell incredibly delicious, cut the zucchini & squash into small cubes, trying to keep them uniform without worrying too much over precision. Add to the pot & sauté 5-8 minutes, until soft.
Now it’s time to toss almost everything in and let soup magic happen. Tomatoes, stock, herbs, tomato paste, & Parmesan rind, if you’re using it. Let your soup simmer for at least 45 minutes before adding the fresh spinach in batches, folding it in so it will wilt on its own in the hot soup.
Pull out the Parmesan rind (it will be gooey!) and toss in the beans, plus pasta if you’re using it. Once everything has heated through, serve up in bowls or big mugs, garnishing with some fresh Parmesan and/or extra parsley, if you like.