Spring Minestrone Verde w/ Pistachio Pesto

Spring Minestrone Soup

Spring Minestrone Verde w/ Pistachio Pesto

Can this soup get any greener?  Spring is around the corner AND it’s been a year since I’ve started this blog.  Wow!  Time does go fast.  A lot has changed personally and professionally for me.  To say 2018 started off with a bang is an understatement.  It’s been quite a journey for me, but I’ve grown, and I am growing still.  What I’m most thankful for is my family and friends (old and new) that supported me through the journey.  I’m reminded of the song from Joe Cocker, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”  Great song.   My passion for this blog has deepened, although I needed a much-needed break to regroup and refocus. But, I’m back!!

Spring couldn’t be more apropos to talk about as it represents new life and new beginnings.  A renewal.  So, in honor of this wonderful season, I made this Spring Minestrone Verde w/ Pistachio Pesto.  It is an adaptation from Bon Appetit’s minestrone soup of the same name.  I knew I wanted to make something refreshing and green for my Spring blog post.  I don’t know about you, but I love green foods.  It signifies health and vitality.  Avocados, kale, matcha, spinach, broccoli and so on.  In this recipe, I use sugar snap peas, regular peas and Tuscan Kale.  Feel free to add your own green medley.  The star of the show in this soup is the Pistachio Pesto.  It takes an otherwise meh soup, to the next level.  Once you’ve added the pesto and topped it with shaved parmesan and crushed red pepper, you will not only have a healthy and filling soup but one with layered tangy flavors.

Oh and don't forget a good crusty bread.  Make sure you slather some pesto on the bread.  You'll want to put it on everything!



Spring Minestrone Soup
Spring Minestrone Soup

Spring Minestrone Verde w/ Pistachio Pesto

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
Kosher salt

2 tablespoons raw pistachios
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup (packed) basil leaves
1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
⅔ cup olive oil, divided
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock or water
6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced in half crosswise
½ bunch small Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
1 14.5-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Thinly shaved Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
4 ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread, toasted

Recipe Instructions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks, and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, 6–8 minutes. Season with salt.

Do Ahead: Soffritto can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill or freeze up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; crush using a small saucepan (you want a mix of sizes).

Pulse garlic, basil, parsley, and ⅓ cup oil in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix with Parmesan, lemon zest, crushed nuts, and remaining ⅓ cup oil; season with salt and pepper.

Soup & Assembly
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-high. Cook thyme, bay leaf, and ½ cup soffritto, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. (Reserve remaining soffritto for another use.) Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add sugar snap peas; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add kale, beans, and peas and cook until kale is wilted, and peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.

Serve soup, topped with some Parmesan and red pepper flakes, with toast and pesto.


Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu


Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu

Oh, my goodness! It’s actually cold here in Los Angeles.  For the first time, I can honestly say that it feels a bit like I’m in Atlanta or dare I say, New Jersey.  Interestingly, when I told my mom how cold it was here, she gleefully stated, “Well, it looks like you gave us all of your heat.”  Okay, so it’s opposites day!  Well, the only way to combat such a cold streak is to make cozy, comfort food.

This Mascarpone Polenta with Mushroom Ragu is rustic, creamy, and classic.  A perfect meal to warm you up from the chilly air. This is a quick meal involving cremini mushrooms, mascarpone (oh joy) and cornmeal.  Most recipes combine a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms and incorporate a variety of mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini, shitakes.  For this recipe, I used one type of mushroom as this is what I hand on hand. Also, depending on where you live, your store may have shitake’s, but not chanterelle’s.  If you’re like me and set on having the exact ingredients for a dish, save yourself the frustration and stick to one type of mushroom.  If you nail it, and find all the mushrooms, go for it.  You’ll be pleased with the result as each mushroom imparts its on flavor and texture.  It will be a treat.

Lastly, there is much debate about whether to use polenta or cornmeal to make this dish.  Well, polenta is the dish, not the ingredient. So, you can definitely use cornmeal that you see at your local grocery store.  However, you can purchase cornmeal that is labeled “polenta,” such as this and this brand if you want to be authentic.




4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper

mushroom ragu
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1   ½ pounds crimini mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shitake)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the salt.  Whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Add the mascarpone, parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

For the mushroom ragu, heat the oil in a large skillet to medium-low.  Add the shallots and cook until wilted.  Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, and liquid has evaporated.  Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.  Add the red wine and stir until the wine evaporates.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To assemble, put the polenta into individual bowls and generously top with the mushroom ragu.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

Vegan Chocolate Espresso Mousse


I couldn't let the year come to an end without a chocolate recipe.  So, here it is.  Vegan Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Goji Berries & Hemp Seeds.  This is by far THE simplest, creamiest recipe that you can put together.  Once you make it, you'll always make it AND it's healthy AND it will look awesome on your holiday dessert table.   

Enjoy your holiday's and Happy New Year!!!





chocolate mousse
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup Cacao powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 cup coconut nectar sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup plant-based milk (I used almond milk)

In a food processor or blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into individual serving bowls. Garnish with goji berries and hemp seeds. Serve immediately.