Away from home and in an airbnb for two weeks at holiday time could be a recipe for disaster for many cooks. Dull knives, warped and nicked non-stick pans, dollar store utensils, and no pantry but for the ubiquitous old oil, salt, pepper, and weak coffee are the earmarks of many rental home kitchens. There are the rare gems stocked to the nth degree with nearly everything of which you could hope to find in your dream kitchen including All-Clad waffle irons, Breville food processors, Henckel knives, Italian coffee, and, of course, the most spacious of air fryers and instant pots. I’ll give you that, but such happy deals are few and far between and are usually in upscale houses for big groups. Having rested our poor weary heads in a large variety of these smaller houses over the years — often with friends — we come prepared. A small bag of our favorite spices makes the journey with us along with a whisk, a pastry blender, one great knife, a stovetop grill pan, a pie plate, and even a big soup pot if we’re going by car. While the store sometimes (but not always) sells nearly everything you’d want, it’s best to bring a few things along to avoid what might otherwise look like the largest grocery bill of your life. Even then, be prepared for the sticker shock that moves many vacation folks to skip cooking and head to restaurants. While we’d do a bit of that in good times, we’re currently avoiding restaurants like the plague. To coin a phrase. On the road, we do a drive-through at lunchtime in the winter, but are tossing meals into a cooler along with a nice bottle of wine for in-hotel-room dinners. No searching for take-out in the cold and dark and the dogs are happy to stretch out on the floor hoping for dropped crumbs from something way more interesting than grilled chicken sandwiches. Sorry, Wendy’s.Continue reading
One day it’s brats and beers on the sweltering deck. The next you’re turning on the heat along with the tv and searching for game day snacks. (Which still could be brats and beers.) It doesn’t seem as if that would be possible, but in Colorado, it often is. We could see just such a weather change several times over the course of any September. But there’s always one metamorphic day when our whole world definitely changes from summer to fall and that’s when “the mountain” (better known to the rest of the world as Pike’s Peak) looks like Brigadoon from my front yard:Continue reading
Super Bowl LV week has arrived in all its glory and, despite the American national religion of watching football not being one of my favorite ways to worship, I’m thinking this year might be different. During the nearly year of Covid-Life, we’ve missed a lot of our regular activities and that’s hurt; we’re shell-shocked across the board. But Super Bowl, the game’s yearly high holiday, will be mostly like it always has been. Not much has changed, hmmm? We’ll be at home gathered around the altar of the BIG TV. Cases of communion beer will be bought and stored in a cold garage; chili or pulled pork could be bubbling in the slow cooker to feed all who come; and tall bags of chips with deep vats of dips might triumphantly work to knock last month’s healthy New Year’s resolutions right into the gutter. There will, as always, be Monday morning hangovers for the Monday morning quarterbacks and, hard as it is to imagine, we’ll then soon be on to March Madness. But in the meantime, it’s life as usual and thank goodness! Even for the unenthused like me, it’s time to get ready for the game, prepare for the halftime show, and plan SUPER BOWL FOOD— everything from endless apps to favorite mains and football-shaped desserts! This year, I might even have a little bit different plan for that meal:Continue reading
When Thanksgiving is over and Advent has begun within a few days…
Advent, (from Latin adventus, “coming”), in the Christian church calendar, the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and also of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. In Western churches, Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 (St. Andrew’s Day) and is the beginning of the liturgical year. In many Eastern churches, the Nativity Fast is a similar period of penance and preparation that occurs during the 40 days before Christmas. The date when the season was first observed is uncertain. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours (461–490) established a fast before Christmas that began on November 11 (St. Martin’s Day), and the Council of Tours (567) mentioned an Advent season.britannica.com
(below: Next-door neighbor Mike carving the charcoal grilled turkey at his house. He cooked the bird in a disposable pan, collected the juices, and I made yummy gravy from it. I whisked a 1/4 cup or so flour into a cup of water and added that slurry to the pan- right on the stove- along with salt, pepper, and a drop or two of hot sauce.)
After Easter there is a plethora of goodies in the refrigerator. The blessings of not only having enough to eat, but more than enough (witness my weight problem and perhaps yours, too)… are beautiful if sometimes embarrassing. “An embarrassment of riches” is what it’s called, I think. Others might use the pejorative meme, “First world problems.” I choose to be grateful, but careful. Full of breath, but conservative in the best sense of the word. In a country where 30- 40% of our food is discarded, but
48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.
(No Kid Hungry dot org)
you can see why a food blogger would think twice before cooking, eating, or posting anything at all. There are moments I’m shifty-eyed and clench-jawed just thinking of recipes that discuss things like the quality of certain cheeses or chocolates that easily set one back $25 a pound. Add to this mix the concepts revolving around our fascination with being thin and a faithful, earth-loving person begins to be more than confused.
If it hasn’t come across your radar, we’re moving up on Earth Day and while we’re talking being conservative in the very best way, here are some…
earth day ideas for earth-loving cooks–coming up April 22, 2016There are many things we can do, and you’re likely aware of quite a few, but for those of us who are comfortably set for house and home, food and clothing, we can share all we can and use all we can wisely. We can donate a few bucks a month to the local food shelter, the World Food Programme or No Kid Hungry.We can use less water, walk more, eat less meat or simply eat more plant-based foods. We can use fabric napkins and buy a couple of dozen white bar towels to use instead of quite so many paper towels. Pick a cause that speaks to you (clean water, better air quality, etc.) and write letters or emails. Study up on climate change and hunger here. Donate to the crisis in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) here. For a list of 10 great things to do right here and now, read here.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt
But in the meantime, this week you can do this: use up your Easter or Passover leftovers, though admittedly they might not be identical. Just use what you already have. Don’t throw them in a plastic bag and send them to the landfill. Don’t pitch them down the garbage disposal. Put them in someone’s stomach. If there’s too much, invite a few folks over to share, or take a big plateful in to the office. In fact, you can make this just decadent meal that’s good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you still have boiled eggs, ham scraps, leftover fresh vegetables, and a little dip or dressing. Try this:
EGG AND HAM SANDWICH WITH GREEK GODDESS DIP AND RADISH SALAD
- Heat a skillet over medium flame with a teaspoon of butter or olive oil. Place the halves of an English muffin in the pan facing down, along with a few thin slices or slivers of Easter ham. Let all of it cook 3-4 minutes or until everything gets a little crispy. Remove muffins to a plate and top with 2 leftover boiled, peeled, and sliced Easter eggs, along with the ham.
- In the meantime, slice up some of the vegetables from your holiday veggie tray or salad– I liked a lot of radishes with some zucchini, yellow peppers, and cherry tomatoes–and put them on the plate. (About a cup total or however many you’d like.) Give them a few grains of salt and pepper on top and splash with a little sherry (or other) vinegar.
- Drizzle the sandwich and/or salad with Greek Goddess Dip (Melissa Clark– A Good Appetite @NYT) or other dressing or dip you still have in that little container in the fridge. Eat warm or at room temperature.
If you liked this, you might like my Snowcap Bean Soup Or Bye-Bye Easter Ham Bone.
Sing a new song; make something fresh with your leftovers,
(a repeat post from 2014)
There are some nights when dinner just doesn’t want to get made. I’m tired or the fridge seems to hold not one good thing despite the fact that it’s full. And that is occasionally because I’ve told myself I need to use up leftovers even though I’m sick of them after the holidays. Lord. Waste not… Continue reading
|Nothing like the fragrance of rosemary for remembrance filling the house in December.|
I’m not a cheap cook, but I have always looked for inexpensive ways to provide our daily bread. Raising a house full of kids, I often had no choice. Even today, when we’re empty nesters with a bit more funds than when the kids were home, I look for ways to save a bit here and there because it’s the right thing to do. It’s often healthy, too. I buy the best I can find for the least amount of money. If you’ve ever cooked for a soup kitchen, or worked in a food pantry, you’ll know that beans go a long way, are low in calories, and high in fiber. They’re filling and versatile. They can also be yummy. Hence this pot of smokey-fragrant “French” beans with lots of
- smoked ham (or pork chop)
- big flavors of rosemary, thyme, and bay,
- browned chicken thighs, legs, (I like Kadejan chicken from Glenwood, MN) and…
- sausage pieces.
What makes the beans French? Probably the herbs and the nod toward a très simple and abbreviated version of cassoulet, which takes three days to make using the traditional method. I use regular navy or white beans; the French often use tiny white beans called flageolets. (For my easier, but still two-day version of cassoulet, click here. I’ll freely admit it needs better photos…phewee.) If you don’t know what cassoulet is, it’s a holiday or large-group gathering winter French meal that includes beans, vegetables, sausage, duck confit, pork, and more. There are layers of cooking involved and a final, huge deep oven-baked pan of oh-my-cook goodness to feed the masses. Lots of lusty red Rhone wine is required, as are copious amounts of baguette to soak up the never-should-be dry bowlful. Cassoulet is a celebration I occasionally do for Christmas Eve. This year, I’m trying not to conquer the world in just one day; I have no idea what we’re having, though a great big bowl of Bolognese is in my freezer. (What riches!)
While this is not a fast recipe (nor is it the three-day marathon), it’s one to enjoy making when you need to be at home anyway. I think it truly is a one-dish meal. You could add a salad if you want, but I’m not sure you need bother. A little cheese afterward perhaps.
Maybe make this when snow flies or folks are on the way and a nice pot of anything will be the relaxed ticket for the evening. I’m convinced the reason many people don’t cook (or say they don’t have time to cook) is because they just don’t stay at home. Our running, crazy world keeps us distracted and sometimes isolated despite all of our “connectivity.” There’s a lot of feeling good to be done around a bit slower life that includes some cooking and sharing of meals. Invite someone over to play cards for the afternoon while this is in the oven (and everyone oo’s and ah’s over the great smells) or serve for a post-holiday meal to use up some of the ham you made for Christmas or New Year’s.
Here’s the “recipe” in photo form… It’s really a method and precise amounts aren’t truly necessary. Use your inner creative cook!
french beans with smoked sausage and chicken
Cooks note: You’ll need to soak a pound of dry white beans overnight just covered with water or
quick-soak them by covering with water, bringing to a boil, and covering for one
hour before beginning this recipe.
|Chop 1 large onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 stalks celery, and 3 carrots.|
|Add vegetables to pot with 2 rosemary sprigs, 1 teaspoon dried Thyme and 1 bay leaf. Stir. (The rosemary will come apart during the cooking. You’ll remove the leftover twig at the end.)|
|While the vegetables cook for five minutes, or so, chop 1/2 cup smoked ham, ham hock, or smoked pork chop. (I just cut some off a ham hock and froze the rest of the ham hock. Cook another five minutes, stirring.|
|To bring up the browned bits on the bottom (deglaze) the pot, add 1/2 cup white wine. Simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring.|
|Pour in 5 cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Add one pound rinsed and soaked dry white beans.* Reduce heat to simmer.|
|Cover and let cook an hour or so until beans have just begun to soften. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; taste and re-season if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Meantime, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet heated over medium flame. Salt and pepper well 6 chicken legs and thighs** and cook them about ten minutes on each side until nicely browned, but not done all the way through.|
|Slice about 8 ounces of smoked sausage into 1/2″ thick slices (I used Aidell’s smoked Italian Sausage with Mozzerella; Kielbasa would be fine) and..|
|add to the pan of browned chicken. Let cook about two minute or until hot. Add chicken and sausage to the pot of beans, gently pressing chicken down into the bean mixture not necessarily to cover, but to moisten.|
|Bring to a boil, cover, and place pot in preheated oven. Let bake until beans are tender and chicken is cooked through, about an hour. Taste and re-season as needed. Remove rosemary “branches,” but leave bay leaf in. Whoever gets it has good luck!|
|Serve hot in large, shallow bowls with sturdy bread and a big glass of red Rhone.|
*If you use a 6 quart pot instead of a 8 quart pot, you may not be able to fit all of the chicken in it. Put four pieces of chicken and all of the sausage in the pot before baking and continue cooking additional two pieces of chicken stove top until they are done. Cool and reserve to add to the pot when the beans are tender and you take it out of the oven. I used the Le Creuset 26, which translates to close to 6 quarts. Make sure you check your pot’s manufacturer’s directions for the safest oven temperature. Some pots are 350 degrees Fahrenheit; some are 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
**I like dark meat for slow cooking. If you like breasts (white meat), go ahead and use them, but I think they will get over done here unless you almost totally cook the beans stove top first and only
put the entire pot into the oven for the time it takes to finish the breasts.
about dried beans (from livestrong.com)
I don’t know if Friday Night “Dinner and a Movie” is still on. Last time I tuned in, it offered decent film viewing as well as little vignettes and cooking segments presented by talented folk. The music was the late 40’s jump tune (Louis Thomas Jordan), “Beans and Cornbread!” Loved it. I don’t know what it is about the phrase… Once you hear it, you just start walking around going, “Beans and cornbread uh uh uh…Beans and cornbread…” The “uh uh uh” is the tenor sax.
I raised my kids on bean soup and corn bread (or plain old beans and cornbread), though I don’t think I knew the tune back then… It’s a good tune!! And I still make it a couple of times a season. Simply put, we’re always glad to get it. It’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and goes a long way. Dried beans have a long history south and north of the Mason-Dixon line and both Dave’s mom and my mom made big pots to feed their families. So it’s comfort food for both of us. In fact, the first meal I had at Dave’s house when we were dating was a pot of ham and beans. (Crock-pot fare was big in the mid-70’s.) He’s quick to remind me that in his house, beans were always served with ketchup. In my house, ketchup with beans would have been anathema. Yuck. Hot sauce, yes. Vinegar with hot peppers, probably. Ketchup, no.
|This is a ham hock from our little corner store, Widmer’s.|
Beans are a good reason to cook a ham; you’ll have the ham bone. No ham bone? Buy a ham hock or two as well as a ham steak if you like a lot of meat. Have a great butcher? Have him/her cut that big ham hock in half for you. You’ll only need half. Wrap the other half well in foil and freeze for up to two months.
But there are beans and there are beans. There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. You can make all kinds… Here’s another version I offered on Dinner Place last spring:
Just for grins and giggles, let’s say you just want to make plain old very yummy bean soup. You’d like to know how to make a truly tasty cast iron pan of corn bread. You can. You can scratch that itch for a fine, old-fashioned meal. Even if years ago you did do the Elvis sneer– or squint and whistle in through your teeth when you knew there were beans for supper. My guess is you don’t do that any more. In fact, when you’re on a road trip, you may pull in to Cracker Barrel for just such a lunch.
And, uh, oh, by the way, if you invite friends to share this sumptuous repast and throw in a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône (choose an inexpensive version of this dry French red blend)…you’ll be at the top of the heap with them for your “rustic” choice in dinner fare. Pick up a baguette to add to the bread basket. A few olives in a bowl for starters. Sounds like a good New Year’s Day plan.
beans and cornbread alyce style
bean soup (made in two stages–broth/beans and soup)
makes 10 – 12 servings
First the broth and cooking the beans half-way:
1# dried white or navy beans, rinsed well, picked over and soaked overnight or quick-soaked*
1 Smoked ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 cups chicken stock
3 quarts water (or more as needed to keep beans cooking freely)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut in half
1 stalk celery
10 sprigs fresh parsley and 2 large sprigs thyme tied in a bundle**
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste)
*You do not have to soak beans contrary to common wisdom. They will, however, cook more evenly and (rumor has it) be less gassy if you do soak them. Place the cleaned and sorted beans in the pot with water just to cover overnight. Or for quick soak: place cleaned and sorted beans in pot just barely covered with water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Turn heat off, cover pot, and let sit one hour before making soup. Discard soaking liquid for either method.
**Or use just the parsley tied and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Add all of the broth ingredients to a large (10-12 quart) stock pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Let cook about an hour or until beans are just beginning to soften. Take out ham hock or bone and cool a bit. Remove any usable meat, chop, and return to pot. Discard bone. Remove herb bundle and discard. Remove large pieces of vegetables, cool briefly and chop; return to pot. Don’t take out the bay leaves. Whoever gets them has good luck. Continue below at “Make the Soup.”
Second, make the soup:
2 cups ham cut into half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup each chopped onion and carrots
Bring the pot of soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer and cook another 1-2 hours until beans and all vegetables are tender. (The time will depend somewhat on how high you have the heat, how done the beans already were, etc.) Add water, if needed, to ensure vegetables are all cooking very freely in liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove two cups of beans and vegetables and mash or puree in the food processor. Return mashed vegetables to pot and taste again for seasoning. Serve hot with corn bread, butter, and honey. Store cooled leftovers well-covered in the refrigerator three days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Variations: Want a slow-cooker bean soup? Try this one.
You can also slow–“cook” bean soup in the oven like my friend Tony does. Try this.
It doesn’t take much to convert this to a more French version. Read here.
alyce’s corn bread
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons for batter; 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 1 1/4 cups white or yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius). Place rack at center.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.
- Heat a 9″ cast iron skillet (23 Le Creuset) on the stove top over low flame with the tablespoon of remaining butter. (If using a baking pan, simply grease the pan.) Tilt and tip skillet from side to side to coat the entire pan with a film of butter. Remove from heat if butter begins to burn.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion, and reserved melted butter. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix well the dry ingredients (cornmeal – pepper). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
- Pour batter into hot skillet or greased pan. I let the pan sit there a minute or two. Using hot pad for skillet, carefully move skillet to oven center rack.
- Bake about twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown with crispy edges and a toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. Serve hot with honey and butter. Wrap leftovers carefully and store at room temperature for one-two days or up to one week in the refrigerator. (Good crumbled in milk for breakfast.)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
|Came home from a trip to find someone had (we guess) a bit too much holiday eggnog and ran our fence down. Sad.|
|Back from the groomer. A bit embarrassed by the regalia. Cute babies, HUH?!|
Better late than never: a little of the Thanksgiving baking above and below:
|Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie|
|Cranberry-Apple Tart with Almond Paste Crust|
|Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie plate on a baking sheet that’s already in the oven.|
|C is for Cherry|
|My One-Minute (microwave) Pumpkin Custards made into tiny pies with an Anna’s Ginger Thin.|
Sing a new song; make a pot of beans,
Split pea is an old love, but I never make it the same way twice. What’s cool about this version is a. the lick of lemon up against the spicy notes and b. texture layers– i.e. crunchy, seedy tortilla chips and smooth sour cream on top of the soup, which is about halfway pureed.
Legume soups are healthy and inexpensive, but I’m mostly drawn to them because they’re tasty, homey, and filling. I adore the look, smell, and feel of a big pot of bean soup bubbling away on the stove nearly anytime. Split pea is about the quickest in the group, though lentils are right up there.
About an hour, especially if you use the food processor for chopping, you’ve got super soup. I’ve made them while camping, using a Coleman stove. They’re so simple and accepting of different ingredients that as long as you have the dried beans in the pantry and a few staples like onions, carrots, and celery, you’ve got soup. Add-ins might be zucchini, jalapeno, or leftover asparagus; toppings might be minced cucumber or grated Parmesan or oyster crackers. A bit of crunchy bacon on top could replace ham hocks or chopped ham in the soup. No meat at all, made with vegetable stock, and it’s great for a vegan meal. Versatile is the word for these soups. Make a big pot, freeze individual portions (Tupperware makes freezer-microwave safe containers), and you have lunch.
The day I made this, I called a friend at 10 and said, “Come for lunch at 12.” I started the soup at 11 and, well, it was a good thing she was a little late. I was still pureeing at 12:10, but that might have been because I was doing ten other things in the middle… Honest, it’s pretty quick for soup. I think Dave ate nearly three bowls and the friend two. While not in the habit of wine at lunch except while on vacation or for tasting, we did each have a half-glass of California Chardonnay with this and thought it a fine sip. I think, with the heat in this soup (and I like several sorts of heat at once), an off-dry Oregon or German Riesling would be a good match as well. Try this:
lemon split pea soup with peppered sour cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 small red potatoes chopped (with peel)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 cups dried split peas
- 1 cup chopped ham
- 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, marjoram, crushed red pepper
- 1 quart each vegetable and chicken stock
- 2 cups water or 1 cup water and 1 cup white wine
- 4-6 drops hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (added near end)
Toppings: 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt mixed with freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips with seeds
In an 8-qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, five minutes or so. Add everything else except the lemon juice, including a teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir and raise heat to high. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer. Cook until peas and vegetables are tender, about an hour. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor. If you’d like a chunkier soup, leave it as is or crush briefly with a potato masher. Serve hot with seeded tortilla chips and a dollop of peppered sour cream for toppings.
Sing a new song,
|One-pot, no soak Tuscan Bean Soup with Rosemary and Chicken|
Hot, cold. Hot, cold. The weather here is like a menopausal woman. To be fair, it hasn’t been hot. Except in my house where there’s a radiator stuck on high. According to local legend, it can’t be fixed until summer. Who said? So when I clean the bathroom upstairs, I turn into a sauna. That’s right, I used the correct pronoun.
Outdoors yesterday, the temperature hit about 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The Macalester College running club (We live about 4 blocks from “Mac.”) ran by in T-tiny shorts singing,
“We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave. The temperature’s rising; it isn’t surprising…”
While I’m the first girl to put on her tee shirt and grill (actually I don’t grill outdoors and don’t care to learn–that’s what Dave is for), I’ll always have to admit I adore indoor and cozy cooking. I like it cold enough to leave the oven on for hours happily braising while I read. (“I’m cooking today.”) Or for a soup to giggle and pop all afternoon on the stove. I’m the woman Hillary Clinton didn’t want to be…I did stay home and bake cookies. Among other things. So I’m the only person in the Twin Cities who is glad it’s still kinda cold. (It’s 67 in Colorado Springs; I’ve been watching.) Everyone else is giving their flip flops a test run in the lingering snow while I am snug in my Clarks’ boots. I’ll give you this: my blood is still thickening after 15 years in Colorado where the beautiful weather is a well-kept secret.
What’s the pits is that the dogs are so funky dirty stinky from the melting snow-mud that I’d like to drop them off at the groomers and let them live there for the next month. We’ve got a dog shower in the basement (no joke) that I guess I’ll break down and use, though they’ll just be filthy again in ten and my back will hurt.
|Dad’s in a big meeting on the phone; we have to stay out. Whah.|
All that said (are you tired of that phrase?) I’m still in the mood for homey, warming soups and stews. Not only because the weather calls for them, but also because they feed us well, healthily and economically. Who doesn’t like to cook once and eat thrice? Or eat once, freeze and eat once a week for the next two? Or share like we’ll do tonight with a friend. I’ll take some bread to a neighbor who adores bread, too.
|Here’s the No-Knead Bread I made for the soup.|
What’s food for if it isn’t shared? Speaking of which, the book TAKE THIS BREAD, by Sara Miles is life-changing (as I mentioned at the end of the last post). A “radical” conversation about communion, the book is also a lot about food, feeding people, and what that all means to you and me. In my world (in my heart), we are called to feed one another in many ways…but I believe firmly that we are called to share, eat and love one another because of it. While there are no atheists in fox holes, there might also be no enemies around a dinner table. What? We could toast,
Here’s to you. I hate you.
I don’t think so. Touching bread together is a means of healing. In many ways.
Here’s to this soup; it’s something you could easily share. Don’t be afraid. People love to be invited. They don’t care if you haven’t swept (and if they do, they need to get over THAT), but they care that someone is interested enough in them to want to spend an evening –a morning, an afternoon– with them. They care that someone loves enough to cook. A restaurant meal (much the thing now) isn’t the same. To begin with, the restaurant:
- is expensive
- might not be healthy
- wants you gone
- wants to have someone else at your table
- wants to make more money
- doesn’t put your love into the food
All right, I’ll give you this: they might. Many cooks/chefs really want the best for their customers, but just as many simply want it to be nine o’clock.
|Beans, water, ham hock and rosemary…it starts like this.|
So call a friend(s), throw the place mats on the table, turn on the music, light the candles, pour the wine, and make this soup. Not in that order. Some tiny bit of a crunchy salad and a chewy boule or baguette round out the meal and the bread’s great for dunking. A couple of tiny cookies or a small scoop of gelato would be sweet for an ending. (Wine? I like a Cotes du Rhone here, but you might prefer a light Italian red like a Moltepulciano.) Here’s the story in pictures:
|Start with a great ham hock.|
|Cook the beans with onion, rosemary and the ham hock. No salt.|
|Remove the hock, add stock, chicken pieces, and veg.|
|Throw in a couple of tomatoes with the chicken and vegetables; remove to cool, peel easily, and chop.|
|Chop the rosemary finely this time; you don’t want to eat a Christmas tree.|
|Carefully chop meat from hock. Remove fat and tendons; check for bones.|
|Now that’s an easy way to peel a tomato.|
|The chicken, simmered in liquid, is done quickly. Remove, cool, skin, bone, and shred.|
|Put it all back in the pot and let her roll. Turn down and simmer.|
Cook’s Note: No cooking and letting the beans sit for an hour; no overnight soak. You just start cooking the beans for this soup in one pan and add EVERYTHING else in a row. Total cooking/prep time is 3 hours, perhaps less. I gave it an extra 30 minutes simmer to come together at the end. Of course it’s great the next day after all the ingredients swam in the same sea, slept in the same bed, washed in the same water, or whatever metaphor floats your boat.
Tuscan Bean Soup with Rosemary and Chicken makes 5 qts approximately
1/2-3/4# dried cannellini or northern white bean/navy beans
1 ham hock (I used half a large one)
2 large onions, peeled and chopped, divided
4 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs rosemary, divided (Leave one whole; mince the other.)
3 pieces chicken with bones and skin
1 qt chicken stock, low or no salt (4 cups)
1 cup white wine or water
2 firm red tomatoes (or 1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes)
1 cup chopped carrots
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1/4 c chopped cabbage, 1/4 c chopped green beans, optional-I had them and put them in.
1/4 c chopped parsley
Kosher salt; freshly ground pepper (start with 1 tsp salt and 1/8 t pepper)
Several drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce (or a pinch of crushed red pepper or ground cayenne)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan
Zest of 1 fresh lemon
- Bring to a boil beans and 2-3 qts peppered (no salt) water. Add ham hock, 1 of the chopped onions, and a whole sprig of rosemary. (Leave the stem in until soup is done; the leaves will have cooked and become quite tender at the end of 3 hours.) Lower heat, cover partially, and let cook at a low boil for about 1 1/2 hours until beans are becoming tender. Add some water if beans are not boiling freely. Remove ham hock, cool, shred (leave out fat and gristle) and return meat to pot.
- Add chicken stock, wine or water, 3 pieces of chicken, and all of the vegetables/herbs (including the other chopped onion, the other sprig of minced rosemary, and the other 2 chopped garlic cloves) except the spinach. Stir in salt, pepper and Tabasco. Return to a boil; lower heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove tomatoes and let cool a few minutes. Skin, chop and return tomatoes to pot.
- Cook soup until chicken is no longer pink in middle and vegetables are tender, 20 minutes or so. Remove chicken and let cool for five minutes. Skin, bone and chop. Return meat to the pot; discard bones and skin. (Unless you have a dog who likes chicken skin.) Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Remove 2 cups of the soup and puree in the food processor or mash well with a potato masher. You could also use an immersion blender very briefly.* Return mashed soup to pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Cook a couple of minutes and lower heat to a bare simmer.
- Add spinach; cook 1 minute. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings. More salt? Pepper? Hot sauce? Carefully add just a teense of any of these and taste again. Serve hot with 1T grated Parmesan and a 1/2 tsp lemon rind to top each large bowl. A dusting of pepper might be welcome as well.
*You want a soup that shows all of its elements–beans, vegetables and meat–merely thickened by the small amount of pureed soup. You don’t want a totally pureed soup.
In St. Paul, spring wants to come. People and animals (see brave bunny below) are all ready for warming sun, a day in the yard, a stroll in the park. I must say they are hardy creatures, though. There hasn’t yet been a day when folks aren’t taking a walk, shopping, etc. Snow, 14 degrees, wind, whatever. These are outdoor people. One day when I thought it was WAY too cold to venture far beyond the warm car, I saw a dad wheeling a stroller, taking the kid for a spin. I got on my boots, tied up my scarf, and went for a walk. I’m learning.
|Pat the bunny. Our reason to bark. A lot.|
|Dad loves us again and is off the phone with people. Office furniture on order. Also paint.|
|We really didn’t.|
Sing a new song,