Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

A bottled jar each of basil pesto and roasted peppers turns this dish into an easy weeknight meal.  But if you feel inclined, it’s always better to make your own.  Roasting peppers is as simple as lightly coating seeded bell pepper halves with olive oil and cooking skin-side down at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  If you want, place the roasted peppers into a covered bowl for 10 minutes to steam, then remove the skins.  Otherwise, just chop, with the skins on.

The combination of ingredients here is easy to love—a bowl full of pure comfort.   That just happens to make use of summer’s finest produce.

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Classic Minestrone

This is nothing more comforting on a rainy, mid-February Monday than a bowl of steamy Minestrone. It’s the vegetarian’s chicken soup.

From the cook’s perspective this soup is made for a kitchen clean-out. You can vary the ingredient list depending on what you fine languishing in the crisper: kale, cabbage, chard, parsnips, turnips, celery root — you name it, practically anything will land happily in the pot.

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Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup

This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. There’s a tattered copy on our shelf — stained with years of reverent use. Though we love Ina, we also routinely doctor her recipes to reduce the fat and salt content. She’s heavy-handed in these areas, but her recipes are always simple, pure and consistently satisfying. You can omit the cream (or reduce) if you like, but it adds a lovely richness. We’ve already reduced it by half from the original. If you have leeks, substitute one for some of the onion.

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With loads of leafy greens in our winter garden, we’re constantly searching for creative ways to incorporate them into our meals. Look no further than Colcannon — creamy comfort in every forkful, just made for the dreary, mid-winter evening. This traditional Irish mashed potato dish is dressed up with fresh kale or cabbage and leeks (that onion cousin that looks like a giant scallion). In most recipes the ingredients are boiled then mixed together with all sorts of good stuff like butter and cream. We like to sauté the greens and leeks in the butter instead of boiling them — it adds an extra level of flavor.

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