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Eating Fresh With Steve

Posted on 16 March 2011

Heller_Stephen Hamilton_7010

By Stephen Hamilton

I was taught the art of short-order cooking when I first came to New York as a young actor in the late 1970s. I worked a number of small kitchens up and down Columbus Avenue, learning to handle a chef’s knife and a soup kettle and how to make delicious foods that were filling and fast. Later, when I was touring the US as a performer, the first thing I did when I arrived in a strange town was find the local grocery and fill the fridge of my temporary home – usually one of several small, bare apartments in which the producer had ensconced the company. Long before marriage and children, filling my kitchen with delicious food helped me create a ”home away from home.”

At home these days — one now populated by my wife of 20 years and two terrific kids — preparing and eating a hearty, healthy soup is still one of the best ways I know to beat the mid-winter blahs. And it’s not just in the eating. I find breathing in the great sauté smells and feeling the warmth radiating from the stove up to my hands, arms and face as nourishing as the soup itself. You can reduce or eliminate the oil, butter and cheese, and still end up with a great meal. Add a green salad and a crunchy whole grain bread, and this is comfort food beyond compare.

VEGETABLE SOUP
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup onion, sliced very thin
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
¼ pound fresh green beans, diced
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 pound fresh zucchini, diced
1½ cups canned cannellini beans, drained
2 cups canned chicken or vegetable broth, plus 4 cups water
2/3 cups canned plum tomatoes, with juice
Salt
Rind from a piece of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese

In a large stockpot, place oil, butter and onion on medium low heat. Cook uncovered until onion is transparent. Add carrots and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery, cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes, repeating the same procedure, then green beans, zucchini, and cabbage. Continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes. Add broth, water, cheese rind, tomatoes and sprinkling of salt. Cover. Lower heat and let simmer for 2 ½ hours. Add cannellini beans, stir and cook for another half hour. When done, remove the cheese crust, and swirl in grated cheese. Correct for salt.

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