Do the ships the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria bring back fond memories from elementary school American history lessons?
It was in 1492 when a young Italian explorer named Cristoforo Colombo and his crew of 120 departed from Palos de la Frontera, setting out on a long journey in search of a route to India, seeking an edge in the growing and competitive spice trade industry, but instead accidentally stumbled upon the Americas.
This Monday, October 8, marks 520 years since the eager explorer first spotted land in the New World, known today as the small islands of the Bahamas.
Translated into English as Christopher Columbus, the young navigator sailed west from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean under the patronage of the Spanish monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.
Born in the northwestern Italian port city of Genoa in 1451, Columbus was not the first European to reach the Americas.
Though not credited with discovering the New World as elementary school lessons teach, Columbus had a profound impact on the world.
With a total of four explorations to the New World, Columbus’ journeys marked the beginning of European exploration and colonization of the American continents.
So, just what did the legendary Columbus and his crew dine on while on their arduous journey across the Atlantic?
The ship’s pantry was stocked with basic items suited for a longer shelf life that included olive oil, vinegar, nuts, molasses, honey, rice, dry legumes, salted sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod, sea biscuits and salted flour. Provisions also included fresh livestock of chickens and pigs.
Because of spoilage, fresh fruits and vegetables were not on board and with little variety, most of the food supply was either salted or pickled in order to preserve the food for the long voyage.
Because of the long voyages, one of the main health concerns common among sailors was scurvy, which is a disease that is caused by deficiency of vitamin C, a vitamin that is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables.
But today, scurvy is not a concern like it was then because of the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In the spirit of the day honoring the native Italian, this classic Italian minestrone soup, one of Italy’s signature dishes, is made with fresh vegetables that are available this time of year and is perfect on a cool autumn evening.
Top this hearty soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh coarsely chopped basil and serve with warm rustic crusty bread.
Hearty Minestrone Soup
1 medium red onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP. olive oil
1 large yellow sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 32-ounce container vegetable broth
1 cups water (add more if needed)
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 –inch pieces
1/2 cup of any small dried pasta such as Orzo
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Fresh shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh coarsely chopped basil
In a 4-quart Dutch oven sauté the onion in olive oil until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the sweet pepper and zucchini and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and pasta and return to a boil. Add Italian seasoning and bay leaf. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 to 12 minutes or until the pasta and green beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomatoes and beans until warm. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and remove bay leaf. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped fresh basil.