Jan 1, 2013

Chicken Minestrone with Kale

A tradition in the south, adapted by Sephardi Jews back in the 1700's, black-eyed peas are typically served on New Years with collard greens and ham hocks. Each ingredient has a unique symbolic attribute: the peas absorb and grow when cooked so they stand for success; the greens signify money; and the pork is for positive movement because pigs root forward when foraging.

Well, I wanted to offer the same lucky powers to my friends during my New Year’s Eve get-together, but with a twist.

I started with Wegmans’ recipe for their slow-cooked beef minestrone. Substituted the beef for chicken, the spinach for kale, and added black-eyed peas. But I couldn’t stop there. I had recently seen in Ina Garten’s new book a recipe for tomato orzo soup (which one of my friends at the party has made numerous times because it’s so good) that’s accompanied by grilled cheese croutons (genius).

This is hearty. This is healthy. And it’s so easy.

Special equipment: slow cooker; cheesecloth; kitchen twine; panini press

Minestrone –

  • 6 Tbs olive oil 
  • 1 ½ lbs dark meat chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs) 
  • ½ chopped onion 
  • ½ chopped leek 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cubed 
  • 1 small zucchini, halved and sliced 
  • ¼ green cabbage, chopped 
  • ½ cup flour 
  • 1 tsp sea salt 
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 jar favorite tomato sauce (I like Newman’s Own tomato basil) 
  • 1 carton chopped tomatoes 
  • 4 ½ cups chicken stock 
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, julienned 
  • 1 head of kale, leaves stripped and chopped, stems discarded 
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta 
Bouquet Garni:
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 
  • 2 sprigs fresh savory 
  • 1 bay leaf (dried or fresh) 
  • 4 sprigs fresh Italian parsley 
Combine all herbs in a 6” square of cheesecloth. Bundle up and tie closed using kitchen twine. 


Heat 4 Tbs olive oil in large stock pot over medium high. Mix together flour, salt and pepper in wide bowl. Coat each piece of chicken in flour mixture before adding to pot with oil. Cook on each side for 30 seconds or so, just until golden. Remove and place in slow cooker vessel.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 Tbs oil to pot and add chopped vegetables. Let cook about 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Transfer to slow cooker with chicken.

Add beans, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, and bouquet garni. Set slow cooker to 3 ½ hours, high.

After 2 ½ hours, add the kale. With 30 minutes to go, add pasta and fresh basil. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if need. Remove chicken and chop before serving. Makes about 8 servings. 

Grilled Cheese Croutons –

  • ½ stick of butter, melted 
  • 6 slices white bread 
  • 1 cup shredded Italian blend of cheeses (mozzarella, romano, provolone, parmesan, asiago) 
Brush outside of bread with melted butter using a pastry brush. Fill with cheese and toast on panini press on medium setting for about 3 minutes. Remove and cut into 1-inch squares. Serve over minestrone immediately.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gosh! I never knew the "symbolic attributes" for those foods. I've heard of pork being described as 'dirty meat' due to the life style of pigs. Got any more?  ツ