Fall produce makes good Minestrone

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I crossed the country, from Cornwall to Vancouver, by rail, last month. What a great way to see the country! Also a great way to enjoy the culinary delights of railway dining cars and to look for good eating spots at stops along the way.

First, the dining car experience. From Toronto to Jasper, we travelled on VIA’s Canadian, which includes dining car service if you’ve booked a berth or room on board. Three meals a day and they are excellent. Breakfast choices included the transcontinental (eggs, hash browns, bacon, ham or sausage, toast, coffee - my favourite), chef’s omelette of the day, continental, or cinnamon french toast. Lunch choices included an Angus burger, shrimp wrap, roasted turkey and provolone sandwich, and, my favourite, hot roast beef in a yorkshire pudding bowl. For dinner, grilled arctic char, prime rib of beef, pan fried pickerel and honey rosemary glazed chicken supreme were choices. We got off the Canadian in Jasper so we missed the rack of lamb served on the last day of the Canadian’s cross-country trek.

In Jasper, we boarded the Rocky Mountaineer for a two-day, all-daylight trip through the Rockies and on to Vancouver. Again, the food (two meals a day) was excellent. The scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast is still fresh in my memory, as are the Alberta short ribs I had for lunch the second day.

Off the train, we spent two nights each in Winnipeg, Jasper and Vancouver. Didn’t find a really special place to eat in Winnipeg, but we did find a Cora’s in the St. Boniface section of the city, where we enjoyed breakfast. Better luck in Jasper, where I enjoyed an excellent dish of seafood pasta made with homemade noodles, at the Athabasca Hotel. It’s in downtown Jasper just two blocks from the railway station. And, in Vancouver, I found Vera’s Burger Shack on Davie St. Best burger I’ve had in a long time. Juicy, tender and tasty. I had the September special: jalapeno, habanero and cheddar. Hot and spicy. Then I had a regular -- all dressed-- for dessert. I’ll go back next time I’m in Vancouver, for sure. In the meantime, I’ll try to get to the Vera’s Burger Shack in Ottawa, which is at 3657 Richmond Rd.

Now, let’s get cooking!

Minestrone

Here’s a minestrone recipe that makes great use of the fresh fall produce that’s now available.

Everything is chopped pretty small...

2 leeks

2 carrots

2 small onions

2 celery stalks

1 potato

1 medium zucchini

3 cups spinach leaves sliced in thin strips

1 can whole tomatoes, chopped, including the juice

8 cups water

1 parmesan cheese rind approximately 5 x 2 inches

1 can cannellini beans (white kidneys) drained/rinsed

1/4 cup pesto

1/4 cup Arborio rice

Put everything in pot except beans and rice and bring to a boil (add 1 tsp salt); then reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 40 minutes. Add the rice and cook 20 minutes longer. Remove parmesan rind and add the beans. Cook five more minutes; turn off the heat and stir in pesto. Done!

Organizations: Athabasca Hotel

Geographic location: Vancouver, Jasper, Cornwall Toronto Winnipeg Rockies Alberta Ottawa

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