Sometimes I wish I could film what goes on behind the scenes in my kitchen when I’m cooking. You only get to see the finished product. But occasionally it’s the behind-the-scenes that makes the dish truly memorable.I came up with this idea for a Southern-style minestrone soup using local ingredients and was anxious to give it a try. My plan was to pick Little Tot up from daycare and while he was sitting in his highchair eating dinner I could get my prep work done. As soon as I got him to bed I planned on getting to work.
I can only assume earlier that day while he was at school, Little Tot watched a particular episode of Thomas and Friends. It’s the one where Percy the mail train decides he would rather be big and loud and fast like Gordon, the engine who runs the express line. Throughout the entire episode, Percy shouts this one line, “Out of my way! Mail coming through!”
From the moment I pull out of the daycare parking lot, Little Tot begins to shout, “Out of my way! Mail coming through!” And he wants me to say it with him. That’s fine. I would rather have him happily and excitedly exclaiming something all the way home than the other scenario where he’s tired and cranky and whines the whole way home because he’s dropped some toy in the backseat and can’t reach it.
In the car all the way home, we are both calling, “Out of my way! Mail coming through!” We shout while I get his dinner ready and we shout while he eats and I’m chopping vegetables. After what seems like the hundred-millionth time, I’m seriously considering a ban on Thomas and Friends. Which would be a sad day in this house, my friends, because my kid LOVES Thomas.
From now on, whenever I make this soup, I will think about little Percy – the engine that pulls the mail on time – and how his desire to be something he’s not lead to trouble. Not the case with this soup, however. It’s not your traditional minestrone soup but I am delighted with how it turned out. Minestrone is traditionally an Italian dish. I put a Mississippi spin on it by adding several Southern substitutions – black eyed peas for cannellini beans, red beans for kidney beans, and collard greens for spinach. It was so delicious I ended up going back for thirds.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- ½ cup sliced okra, or 1 zucchini, quartered then diced
- ½ cup chopped fresh green beans
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 (15 ounce) can red beans , rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen black-eyed peas
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- ½ cup sliced carrots
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1½ cups water
- 3 cups fresh collard greens, stems removed, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup small shell pasta, optional
- Salt to taste
- In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, okra or zucchini, green beans, celery, and garlic. Sauté until onion turns translucent, about five minutes.
- Add chicken broth, red beans, black eyed peas, tomatoes, carrots, seasonings, and water. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.
- Add collard greens and pasta, return the lid to the pot and bring soup back to a simmer. Cook for an additional 20 minutes or until black eyed peas and collard greens are tender. Season with salt.