You’re Mine, Minestrone!
At the very first sign of rain, one of the things I instantly love to do is get ahold of my favorite warm and snuggly foods that I can curl up with on the couch and savor with a good movie, as the raindrops fall outside. Mexican hot chocolate? Check! Piping-hot ramen? Check!
And in the midst of this blazing summer heat, all of the recent forecasts of rain have left me yearning to escape to the world of steamy comforts I had to put aside over the last few months. Well, dear readers, I’m not holding back any longer — now that fall is inching closer toward us, it’s time to cozy up to some classic minestrone.
This popular Italian soup simmers with heartiness and healthy ingredients every time it is stirred, and it’s jam-packed with vegetables and a zesty tomato base.
When scouring the island for just the right bowl of minestrone, I found stunners to suit every palate. For all of our vegetarian and vegan diners, I have the perfect dish to recommend, and if any gluten-free patrons are reading this week, I’ll show you a magnifico selection. From a traditional recipe to an inventive rendition, let’s get to it at some Ono establishments.
Under the backdrop of rain-kissed Koolau Mountains, there’s no cozier place to revel in a satisfying meal than at Zia’s Caffe in Kaneohe. There, as I escape the season, I also am whisked away to a retreat of fine Italian fare.
To kick off any meal, you’ll fall in love with Minestrone ($3 cup; $5 bowl), just as I did. Available every day, this lively mixture of zucchini, celery, carrots, onions and hand-crushed San Marzano Roma tomatoes hits the spot with authentic flavor.
“As we serve it, we add fresh tomatoes, chopped up penne pasta and fresh-chopped basil to each bowl,” describes executive chef Jesse Kila, who puts a unique spin on the soup by adding sweet potato.
Kila points out that after he substituted chicken broth for a completely vegetable-based soup, his minestrone is now vegan-friendly. What’s even better is that many regulars couldn’t decipher the difference because the vegetable broth delivers the same richness in flavor — a fact I can attest to.
In addition to enjoying this minestrone as a starter, Zia’s diners also may get a spoonful when ordering the soup and salad combination on the lunch menu, as well as the lasagna on the dinner menu, which comes with soup or salad.
45-620 Kamehameha Hwy.,
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop
Whenever I’m seeking a creative dish unlike anything I’ve tried before, I head to Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, where owner and executive chef Brian Chan always is coming up with innovative eats.
To accommodate all of this creativity, menus are changed up seasonally at Scratch. The current summer selection features a dashing Kale & Quinoa Mine-strone ($6), served with Reggiano toast and basil, which is great for a light meal or to supplement other entrees.
Co-owner Amy Miyahira says the dish is a great example of Chan’s ability to pack healthy ingredients into a classic recipe. Rather than standard pasta or rice, the soup shines with filling quinoa, which is considered a proteinand vitamin-rich superfood. It also showcases uber-nourishing kale, which perfectly blends with the minestrone’s more classic vegetables.
A crisp toast sprinkled with fresh cheese shavings and basil slivers is perfect for dunking into the soup, which is made with a flavor-bursting chicken broth and tomato base. But as Miyahira explains, the toast may be omitted to provide a glorious gluten-free option to guests.
Be sure to get a taste of this one before Scratch’s next menu debuts.
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop
1030 Smith St., Chinatown