Minestra Soup

Chef Jeff Jackson stresses importance of repetition.
  • Chef Jeff Jackson stresses importance of repetition.

Recipe by Jeff Jackson, Chef, A.R. Valentien (at the Lodge at Torrey Pines)

When you learn to cook as I did, 30 to 40 years ago in the Midwest, you had a menu that was set and remained the same. Basically, I cooked the same things day after day. When I moved to California, the variety of fresh produce and fruit was so staggering that we made the decision to cook only what was seasonal and available. We changed the menu every day. And now, I don’t know any other way.

I grew up in Oklahoma and started working in a restaurant as a dishwasher when I was in ninth grade. After I cleaned the dishes, the chefs sometimes threw me a bag of carrots or a pile of potatoes to peel. Later, they showed me how to cook them, and eventually I worked my way up to a pantry cook, making salads. When it came time for college, I was kind of expected to follow after my brothers, who were engineers. But I equated going to college with getting a job and sitting at a desk all my life. And I am someone who can’t sit still. I don’t like doing nothing. Anyway, I told my parents I wanted to be a chef. I found out about the Culinary Institute [of America]in New York, got some letters of recommendation, and applied.

I was very lucky. When I got to the CIA, one of my instructors asked how many of us were going to be chefs after school. We all raised our hands and the instructor told us we were full of shit. Cooking is a craft, he said. You have to do it repeatedly. You don’t master it overnight. He told us to find the best chef you can work for, work for nothing, and then find another chef. I took that to heart. I got into great kitchens, got into the craft of cooking, and learned passion. I worked for one guy who was so intense that he only screamed and yelled at us. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun all the time because he was such a perfectionist, but I consider it very fortunate that I worked for such inspiring chefs. I learned that if I didn’t get screamed at it was a compliment.

When I started working at Shutters on the Beach, I was only six blocks from the Santa Monica farmers’ market. I formed partnerships with many farmers that still last to this day both in Los Angeles and in San Diego. What I discovered is that when you change your menu and use great local ingredients, the flavors are so incredible. Much better than what you buy from the store that’s a week old by the time you put it in your cart. We put a lot of emphasis on cooking simply and maintaining the integrity of the ingredients.


Serves 4

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil (reserved)
  • 2 bermuda onions
  • 2 cloves thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 bunch broccoli spigarello or other greens
  • 1 cup butternut squash or other winter squash
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • ½ cup cooked cannellini or garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup borlotti or cranberry beans (shelled, blanched and peeled) (Canned cannellini beans, rinsed, can be substituted)
  • ½ cup haricots verts or green beans (trimmed and blanched)
  • 1 cup coarse bread crumbs
  • Grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil for garnish


Boil water in a large pot. Blanch the arugula for one minute. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. In a blender, grind the arugula, the garlic clove, and 1 cup of olive oil and set aside for later use. Thinly slice the bermuda onion. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the onion and shaved garlic until translucent. Add the broccoli and squash. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Once the flavors have a chance to infuse (about 3 minutes) add the cannellini beans, shell beans, and haricots verts. Return the mixture to a simmer and remove from heat. Add 2 Tbsp. of the arugula/garlic paste to the soup and stir.

Divide bread crumbs between the bowls. Season the soup with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Garnish with Parmesan and olive oil.

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