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December, 2009

Guest Chef Debbi Dubbs

By Dennis Linden

This month’s featured recipe, submitted by Guest Chef Debbi Dubbs, is the perfect dish for holiday entertaining that will keep on giving with every tasty spoonful
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Chef Debbi Dubbs
Admittedly, when Chef Debbi submitted her Minestrone with Pesto, it caused this writer to pause as it meant that the taste test for this feature would have to be prepared during a trip visiting my parents, for whom Minestrone soup has been a holiday tradition for years. So this month’s recipe tasting would have to be served to the very toughest judge of all, a mother in her own kitchen! However, that concern was soon forgotten with the first exquisite taste, shared and savored by all of us around a familiar kitchen table as was fitting for this wonderful soup that warms the heart as it takes the chill out of a cold winter day.

This very quick and easy to prepare dish, which should take no more than one hour to assemble from prep to serving, has a simmered all day flavor that almost defies description. Based on serving this dish twice now, once to family and again to friends, all have signaled their approval with the same almost immediate ceasing of table conversation as the soup almost instantly commands their full attention. Suffice it to say, this is some serious soup! In fact, the only real preparation hint that these two cooking experiences taught was that the “makes six servings” as suggested in Chef Debbi’s recipe needs a cautionary footnote. The recipe makes six servings alright; enough soup for three people who will all ask for seconds! To be practical, the ingredient amounts for this recipe should be DOUBLED as the intensely wonderful flavor of this dish will evoke a two word reaction by most all who try it: more please. Your guests will have no choice in the matter, so be prepared!

In the interest of full disclosure, it should also be noted that at one point in her culinary career, Debbi was an executive chef in Melissa’s test kitchen and still uses many of Melissa’s products in her classes and cookware demonstrations as a matter of personal preference. The fact is that Chef Deb will always be an extended member of the Melissa’s family, so this feature will be blatantly biased in celebration of a relationship that continues to sprout new and exciting opportunities of collaboration between us. Still, all prejudices aside, Chef Debbi’s soup is a masterful blend of several ingredients that combine for a singular good flavor. It comes at a time of year when a big bowl of hearty soup is the perfect recipe to both warm the room and melt the chill of drop-in holiday visitors.

The basic recipe for this dish, with a few seasonal ingredient changes to match current harvests, appears in Debbi’s recent book, What’s In Your Pantry. This is a great book, especially for home cooks looking for some direction in setting up their first culinary complete kitchen. Chef Debbi divides the kitchen into sections: pantry, equipment and techniques. She organizes the pantry into food types and where they are stored, then fills each shelf from an itemized grocery shopping list of the basics from canned goods to condiments, dry goods to fresh herbs. The book also provides quick lessons and a shopping list for the basics in both cookware and cutlery. It’s a clear and concise primer for the young adult, raised on Happy Meals, who has recently discovered the joy of cooking, but needs help in how to go about setting up a well stocked kitchen. The grocery lists and equipment reviews are followed by a handy glossary of terms and then a section of about twenty very fundamental recipes that, combined, will expose the novice cook to most every cooking technique that one needs to be fluent in food preparation. That knowledge can be applied immediately through the season-centric recipes that form the rest of the book, which Chef Debbi presents in the context of the four seasons of the year. The book makes a perfect holiday gift for that beginning cook who could use some basic knowledge that will support following his or her own culinary muse with confidence.

A blatantly biased Guest Chef feature would not be complete without a link to Chef Debbi’s own web site: www.debskitchen.com. The site contains the schedule of Chef Debbi’s upcoming cooking classes, as well as an opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of What’s In Your Pantry directly from the chef herself. Oh yes, on the evening that I returned from the visit, there was an email from my mom expressing thanks for the large pot of soup left behind that was on the dinner menu for that night, as well as a request for a copy of the recipe to replace the one that had been relied on for years. Thanks to Chef Debbi, a new tradition has apparently begun!

Minestrone with Pesto
Minestrone with Pesto
Recipe by Chef Debbi Dubbs (Serves 6)

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Small red onion, diced
2 Organic carrots, peeled & diced
2 Organic celery stalks, diced
2 cups fresh organic Roma tomatoes, rough chopped
2 quarts (64 oz.) chicken stock
1 cup fresh organic green beans, cooked and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Pine Nuts, toasted
1 clove Melissa’s Colossal garlic, minced 1/2 bunch basil leaves, packed
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fine
1 package (12.3 oz) Melissa’s Steamed Red Kidney Beans
1 can (15 oz) Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup Swiss chard or organic spinach, rough chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 oz. small pasta, cooked and cooled (1 inch elbow macaroni or similar)
1 Melissa’s Meyer Lemon, juiced
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Preparation:
Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add oil and sauté onions, carrots and celery until translucent. Add tomatoes, stock and green beans, bring to a boil, and turn heat down to a simmer while you prepare pesto.

Pesto:
In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic and pine nuts. Pulse into fairly small pieces. Add basil and pulse until it becomes a paste. Add cheese and pulse to blend, with motor running add oil until you have a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper, set aside. To the soup, add the cannellini beans, kidney beans, Swiss chard or spinach and cook until slightly wilted. Add pasta, lemon juice and pesto, stirring to blend. Serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese and a warm loaf of crusty bread.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items):
389 Calories;
10g Fat (23.9% calories from fat);
24g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate;
16g Dietary Fiber;
10mg Cholesterol;
3149mg Sodium

Exchanges:
2 1/2 Grain(Starch);
2 Lean Meat;
1 1/2 Vegetable;
0 Fruit;
11/2 Fat. …excerpt from What’s In Your Pantry by Debbi Dubbs