From the Home Kitchen: Italian Minestrone

Minestrone in the pot

I was editing a podcast today in my studio and the subject of that podcast was Thanksgiving dinner. Now, I will admit that this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Actually, I was thinking of things I may try to prepare for the feast at my family’s gathering and thought that I really wanted a soup. We did chili this past weekend and it was good but I wanted something different. So, instead, I opted for minestrone. With the exception of the pancetta (that I had to hunt down) that I rendered down for the fat and will sprinkle on top of the finished product, there’s no meat in this. That’s odd for me. Most everything has to have meat for me to enjoy it.

But, still, I wanted to surprise Stephanie with dinner when she got home. She’s on vacation all next week and this starts “Uber-Weekend” so I wanted to do something awesome for her.

I got this recipe from Ashley (Baker by Nature) and really did very little to modify it but there are some edits but any variation isn’t significant to my version of the recipe.  Because I don’t do a lot of “recipe posts” I’m just going to list the ingredients and what I did with them.

  • 4 ounces diced pancetta (I had to hunt it down because “P” didn’t carry any. The HT did, though.)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I didn’t add these because her instructions didn’t say where to put them in and Stephanie doesn’t like things too spicy).
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 1½ cups green beans (trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (I make my own Italian Seasoning – that’s for another day)
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • (1) 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • (1) 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (for the diced and crushed tomatoes, I use Pomi chopped and Pomi strained which comes in 26.5 oz packages)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken bone broth (slightly less than)
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef bone broth (no sodium added)
  • (1) 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 15 ounce can Cannellini beans
  • 1½ cups elbow pasta
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

Minestrone in the bowl

  1. In my Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, I cooked the pancetta until crispy, slightly less than 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, I transferred the pancetta to a small plate on a paper towel and set aside. I left pancetta drippings in the pan and splashed in the olive oil and onion and let it cook until the onion was translucent.
  2. I then added in the celery, carrots, and green beans and cooked until they begin to soften but not too much. Tossed in the garlic and cooked it about 30 seconds; until fragrant. Then came the Italian seasoning and tomato paste. I also added salt and pepper at this time.
  3. Time, then to stir in the Pomi tomatoes, chicken broth, and beef broth before bringing that to a boil. I reduced the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. I then stirred in the kidney beans, Cannellini beans, and pasta and let that cook down about 10 minutes. I put the spinach in and cooked until it was all wilted.
  5. Once all that was done, it was time to remove it from the heat and stir in the basil and lemon juice.
  6. Ladled the soup into bowls, sprinkled the reserved pancetta bits on top and used a grater to shave some parmesan cheese over it, added a little hint of parsley to add bright green to it and, voila! Minestrone.

I was happy with the result. I do think it could have used a little more salt but that’s one of the things I keep pulled back. I can add S&P when I eat the next go-round. It paired nicely with the homemade pimento cheese that I made, too. Again, more on the pimento cheese in a later post.

If you make this, either from my modified recipe or from Ashley’s original, snap a picture and let me know. I’d like to hear about your results and thoughts.

Bon appetit!

Taking My Place at the Table for a Second Helping

I was honored to be a guest contributor to Triad City Beat, for their “Dinner Guest” column in “Triad City Bites.”

This time around I stayed with the minimalizing sodium theme and talked about making spaghetti sauce. Executive Editor, Brian Clarey, allowed me to use my humor in it and I was proud of the result.

So, if you’ll do me the favor, you can read the article either in the print form, which can be found all around the Triad, or you can read it on their website, and you can do that HERE.

Thank you so very much Brian and Triad City Beat for the opportunity.

And, thank you to our readers and listeners for supporting our blog and podcast.

From the Home Kitchen – Modified Spinach Foggia Pizza

I have said it before and I will always repeat it. There is nothing like cooking with your son what it’s something that you both have a passion for. Tonight, we made homemade Spinach Foggia pizza. Never heard of Spinach Foggia pizza? Then you never went to Prince’s on the Park in the 80s and 90s or didn’t look in Harris Teeter’s frozen pizza aisles.

Spinach Foggia pizza was a creation from Mike Prince when he owned Prince’s on the Park which for those in Winston-Salem, now, it was where The Tap sets now in the West End. It was a pizza parlor/sandwich shop/wing joint that had the best pizzas in town, the best baked wings and the best sausage sub. It was a creaky old place and it was run down. That wasn’t Mike’s fault it was the building owners’ and one of the reasons why they closed down. Their signature item though was the Spinach Foggia pizza. 

As you may guess, it has spinach. Yep, great leafy green goodness on a pizza. I hadn’t ever heard of that at the time. In addition to the spinach, it had mushrooms, tomatoes, oregano, garlic and olive oil with mozzarella cheese. If you notice, there was no “sauce.” On this pizza, it was just the ingredients; the olive oil made it “sauce,” from what I remember. In addition to making it in the restaurant, Mike put it in stores. It was mostly Harris Teeter and Golden Apple (a high-end grocery store that was ahead of its time, which closed in 2016). I will be honest, I never had it in the stores. But, I had it plenty of times in the shop.

So, when I was looking for something for our Thursday night menu on Sunday, I decided to do my own version of this. I had never made it before and I was excited to do so. So, Trey, my 16-year old son, and I modified it up a bit.

Another pizza that Prince’s made was a White Lightning pizza. I don’t know what that was exactly but it was made with a white sauce instead of red sauce. So, I kind of wanted to mix the two ideas. Also, I don’t like pizzas without some kind of meat on it so we got some loosely packaged Italian sausage and sauteed it to put on the pizza.

We started by making our own dough, adding honey to sweeten it a bit.

My son made the white sauce. He melted 2tbsp of butter and put 4 cloves of minced garlic in there, sauteeing them before adding 3tbsp of all-purpose flour, ¼tsp each of salt, black pepper and oregano, whisking it until mixed. He then added a ½cup of heavy cream (we should have used whole milk instead but it still tasted great). Letting it set up, he added ½cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was a little thicker than we wanted but that’s where the milk would have made a difference. But, again, the flavor was great.

So, for the pizza, we spread out the dough on a pizza tin, spread a little cornmeal over it, and spread the white sauce. We put a little olive oil over it. We thinly sliced a tomato and cut the slices in half. We placed them around the pizza, followed by baby bella mushrooms. I didn’t put garlic on the pizza because it was already in the white sauce. We spread the sausage and put freshly chopped oregano and basil on the pizza. We then covered the pizza in freshly grated mozzarella cheese. We popped it into a 500° oven for around 15-17 minutes.

We were both very pleased with the outcome. The dough wasn’t overdone or underdone. The ingredients worked well together and it was quite a filling pie. It was really good.

I believe it was extra good because I did it with my son. I hope you try it and I hope you have great success with it. I thank Mike Prince for introducing me to that delicious pizza all those years ago. I am also glad that I got to do my own modified version, again, with my son.

I do apologize that the picture isn’t up to my usual standard, but I was kind of “off the clock” and it is what it is.

From the Home Kitchen: Szechwan Shrimp & Broccoli w/Garlic Butter and Cashews

Welcome to the first of the actual “column” of “From the Home Kitchen, here on The Man Who Ate the Town.

A few weeks ago, Stephanie, Trey and I made this Asian treat for dinner. Szechwan Shrimp and a Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews side. Sweet, slightly spicy (our choice) and very delicious. We don’t rate our food in any way other than: “would we make it again?” and in this case, it was certainly a resounding yes.

The Recipes:

Szechwan Shrimp (from FOODGU1 on All Recipies)

  • 4 tbsp water
    2 tbsp ketchup
    1 tbsp soy (we backed it to half and used lower sodium sauce)
    2 tsp cornstarch
    1 tsp honey
    ½ tsp crushed red pepper
    ¼ tsp ground ginger
    1 tbsp vegetable oil (we subbed olive oil)
    ¼ tsp chopped green onions/scallions
    4 cloves of garlic minced
    1 pound of shrimp, tails removed
  1. In a bowl, stir together water, ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, crushed red pepper, and ground ginger. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in green onions and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in shrimp, and toss to coat with oil. Stir in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is bubbly and thickened. Serve over rice. 
  3. Makes 4 servings. About 20 minutes total time. 142 calories/serving.

Broccoli with Garlic Butter & Cashews (from SALSIEPIE on All Recipes)

  • 1½ pounds of broccoli but into bite-sized pieces
    ⅓ cup butter
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    3 tbsp soy (we backed it to half and used low sodium sauce)
    2 tsp white vinegar
    ¼ tsp ground black pepper
    2 cloves of garlic minced
    ⅓ cup chopped salted cashews (I put a handful in a resealable bag and used the bottom of a glass spice jar to crush the cashews, worked perfectly)
  • We also added mandarin orange slices to the mix because this is an Asian inspired dish and I thought it would be a great addition and I think we all felt that it was
  1. Place the broccoli into a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil, and cook for 7 minutes, or until tender but still crisp. Drain, and arrange broccoli on a serving platter.
  2. While the broccoli is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Mix in the cashews, and pour the sauce over the broccoli. Serve immediately.
  3. Makes 6 servings and can stand on its own as a dish. About 20 minutes total time. 187 calories/serving.

These two dishes were a very wonderful one-two punch if you’re in the mood for some good Asian dishes. It was healthy (especially when we backed off the low-sodium soy sauce), too. That’s what we’re trying to do with the cuisine we choose for our family cooking adventures: have a bit of time together, listen to some records, choose healthy but very tasty meals and just have fun.

If you’ve never used All Recipes, I’d highly recommend it. You can find just about anything there. Many of their recipes have video demos as well. You can visit their YouTube channel for more videos. I also recommend any videos by Food Wishes and Chef John. He’s entertaining and insightful. I’m a member of the All Recipes site and a subscriber to the magazine. I am not endorsed by All Recipes and this isn’t a paid or implied advertisement for them, I’m just a fan and get a lot of food recipes from there.

I hope this sounds intriguing to you. I’d love to hear that you tried it for yourself, if you modified it, if you did or didn’t like it, and I would love to see your pictures of it. Send it to our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page. Or, you can email me at Tell me if you don’t want me to publish any of it. It can be public or we just have a conversation about it in private. Either way is perfectly fine.

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening!
Slàinte Mhath!

From the Home Kitchen: The Introduction

No rights assumed for this picture.

This blog has always been about food. That’s why it’s called The Man Who ATE the Town. I have always focused on restaurants in Winston-Salem and fear not… that’s what I will continue to do; no doubt. I moved into being a food news source, as well. Most of that again, focusing on WSNC, but sometimes venturing outside of that realm when need be. Then I added the podcast on The Less Desirables Podcast Network (which I also own). All of that is fun and good and I’m not stopping any of that.

But one thing has changed for me. I’m cooking at home more, now. Why? Don’t I like eating in restaurants as much? Well, yes. I absolutely love eating in restaurants. Truth be known, I’d much rather eat out all the time, but it’s not financially feasible or realistic. There are two main reasons why I’m doing this, now. My wife and my son. There’s a lot of other smaller reasons but those are the two biggest.

On Thursdays, my son, Trey, and I have “guy time.” That time includes us cooking a meal together and watching a movie (currently that means the James Bond series). I’m hoping that he develops a love for food like I have. He gets to do a good bit of the chopping and stove work. We do some simple stuff and some intermediate level stuff. A little this. A little that.

On Sundays, I have Trey with me, as well. The bonus is that Stephanie is home with us, as well. So, we have started cooking, the three of us, together. We each take our places in the fray and do what we need to do to make the best meals we can. It’s fun. We get bonding time and we get great food out of it. Mostly. Sometimes we overdo something or underdo something. We’re not professional chefs or cooks, we just do what we can. I’d say we’re professional eaters, though. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to say it.

So, that brings me to the reason of this post. This is the start of a new column that I’m going to write called: From the Home Kitchen. I will be writing this to highlight the creations that my boy and my wife and I make. If you don’t hear about it, don’t think that I’m going to forget about it, we’ve really messed something up or we didn’t do anything. Sometimes we make things that aren’t that exciting or sometimes we may actually mess up, you never know. Just be on the look out for it. I’ll leave recipes when possible and pictures, as well.

I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to know if you tried the recipes or if you have recipes that you want to share with me that we can do. A few things to remember, onions are okay as long as they’re minced very finely, shallots are okay in the same instance, no asparagus, no grapefruit. Those are the rules. If you have recipes, send them to me via email. As always, thank you for reading and thank you for listening to the podcast…