Sunday, October 16, 2016

Minestrone with Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel)

Minestrone with Tangerine Kick

Recipe from Chinese Herbal Cookbook

As my friend Jon says, “One of the reasons I love food so much is that it’s an adventure if you go for new things...exotic spices, cuisines from around the world and ingredients that make you go 'hmmmm'. My most memorable meals are a symphony of textures and flavors. It's the magic of one flavor picking up where the last left, harmoniously and at the same time an experience all its own.” Inspired by Jon, I offer this long-forgotten recipe: Italian style minestrone with Chinese chen pi, or dried tangerine peel. Tangerine permeates the dish in a subtle but game-changing way.

Three ingredients in the soup pot
Early Ingredients: Beans, Aromatics, Chen Pi
The recipe can be adapted to either spring or late summer/early fall, by using fresh peas (spring) or corn (summer-fall). In a pinch, you can use frozen versions of either veggie. Key to the recipe is chen pi, which you can find at any store that stocks Chinese herbs. As December approaches, you can make your own chen pi by simply cutting up and drying the peels of any tangerines that you eat. According to traditional Chinese medicine, chen pi soothes digestion, coughs, and other upward flows of chi.

This soup takes some time, but the recipe is easy. It’s the perfect dish to make on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Prepare and chop the veggies, then add them to the soup as directed during the 2-hour cooking time. Also, allow 2-3 hours soaking time for the chen pi and the adzuki beans prior to beginning to cook the soup. Combine it with cornbread or toasted wholegrain bread for a warm and nourishing supper.

bowl of chen pi
Warm and Innovative
Adzuki Bean Minestrone with Chen Pi
serves 6 – 8

4 oz. dried adzuki beans
1/3 oz. chen pi (dried tangerine peel)
1½ tbsp. olive oil
¾ cups chopped onion (1 large)
¾ cups chopped celery (2 – 3 stalks)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
~4½  cups veggie broth
1 medium leek, sliced (~8oz.)
4 medium carrots, sliced (~8 oz.)
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. long-grain rice
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced (9-10 oz.)
2 ears corn, cut from cob (~10 oz), or substitute equal amount of peas
¼ cup chopped, packed parsley
a few basil leaves for garnish

Soak the adzuki beans and chen pi (in separate containers) in water for 2 – 3 hours.

Heat olive oil in a heavy 5 – 6 quart soup pot. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Sauté over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 minutes.

Drain the adzuki beans and discard liquid. Drain the chen pi, reserving the liquid and pouring it into a large measuring cup. Add veggie broth to the chen pi liquid to make 5 cups total. Add beans, chen pi, and liquid to soup pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to slow simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir in leeks, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Stir in rice. Cover and simmer for 22 minutes. Add zucchini, corn, and parsley. Bring to boil, then simmer for another 8 minutes. Don’t overcook these last veggies. Meanwhile, cut basil leaves into chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling them up, and slicing them crosswise, very thinly to create thin ribbons (illustrations here).

Serve garnished with basil.

Aromatics and beans with carrots and tomatoes added
The Early Stages of Soup-Making

Adding the corn, parsley, and zucchini
The Final Stages of Soup-Making

Bowl of Chen Pi Minestrone
The Results of Soup-Making

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