Last Sunday evening, after our family went shopping for the afternoon, we had dinner at Solaire’s Finestra, its Italian-cum-fine dining restaurant, as it was near Duty Free Fiestamall, where we’d come from. As I wanted to enforce a habit of eating just a light supper and not eating past ten in the evening (as it takes food 2-3 hours to digest, and you shouldn’t sleep on an undigested stomach), I skipped my customary pizza or pasta (though my brother asked me to share a good-for-two Florentine steak with him, which I happily obliged to) and ordered the minestrone alla Genovese.
Minestrone alla Genovese is a Ligurian variant on the classic vegetable soup/stew, where more herbs and greens are used and there aren’t any tomatoes. Or at least this version doesn’t. Nevertheless, it was so good and I felt so inspired to add olive oil (pomace or extra-virgin) to all the European dishes I cook since I bought the former at the grocery two weeks ago for a surprisingly moderate price (relative to what I was expecting), that the following day (which was yesterday), I decided to have it for my midday meal alongside a bowl of black rice. Of course, being someone who lives in the Philippines and relies on local produce for sustainability’s and succulence’s sake (try saying the last two words fast :p), it became minestrone alla Genovese-Filippino.
Minestrone alla Genovese-Filippino Ingredients: (½ tbsp.) olive pomace oil (1 clove) garlic, minced (1) spring onion, chopped (½ tsp.) fresh rosemary or (¼ tsp.) dried (1½ cups or 375 ml) chicken broth/stock (¼ cup) lentils, drained or soaked to preference a mixture of green vegetables, such as but not limited to: - Baguio beans - bok choi (Taiwanese pechay) - cabbage - courgette (zucchini) - French beans - green peas - mangetout (snow peas/sugar snaps) - pechay (Tagalog) - string beans (1 tbsp.) pesto or basil, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil (1 tbsp.) extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
As usual, I used native Filipino chicken stock, which is ready-to-eat as is or cooked further. I started off with the olive pomace oil and bunged in some garlic and spring onions, as well as dried rosemary (the only one we have).
I had some leftover yellow lentils from a Waitrose’s can I bought the other week out of curiosity (it was supposed to go rotten 2 days after opening, but this was the third day and it was normal), so I used some of it up, but you can go without it. In typical fashion, I scoured the fridge for whatever more greens there were, and came up with green peas, cabbage, Tagalog pechay, Baguio beans, and string beans. As lentils are supposed to be cooked for 3-5 minutes, these went into the pot first; I chose to retain its water. The peas and beans went in next, then the leaves.
Looking back, I realized that I still had some pesto from the Gourmet Farms jar I usually buy in the grocery (I went there for a field trip I helped organize, and fell in love with the place), and that this had been the source of the olive oil from Finestra’s minestrone. I should’ve spread it on top of the soup after cooking it, but at the same time, reflecting, adding extra-virgin olive oil on top of the soup was also a great idea. Unfortunately, I belatedly realized that this should be done after the soup has been cooked, because EVOO, once heated too much, poses a carcinogenic risk – and I had waited for the soup to come to a bubble fiercely before taking it off the heat.
I ended up making so much soup that I kept about half away for consumption later in the day or the next day; the quantities of ingredients above thus reflect this realization. I added dried chili flakes to just the half I ate this meal, to add a boost of flavor.
To add a further Italian taste to the meal, I turned my drinking water into lemon water by adding some lemon juice concentrate to it. I didn’t add so much that it would become lemon juice, but only to add a gentle touch of citrus that would subtlety but noticeably tickle the tongue. This is just about 1½ tablespoons of such with about 1½ cups of water.
The minestrone tasted surprisingly fabulous. Maybe it was just the olive oil, but it tasted so appetizing that, had I still had space in my tummy, I might have eaten the other half of what I made. But a hearty and chunky bowl of soup and a bowl of black rice is already enough to fill the stomach (and the palate), so I banished it to the fridge where it would await its fate.
Check back for a later post on what fate befell it! 😉