My mother has always been a master at stretching a dollar because she’s had lots of practice most of her life. As a single mother of three children under the age of five by the time she was 25, she worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. She was very good at providing us a life we never considered was lacking, even though by today’s standards, most would say it was. Our clothes were mended and patched when they began to show wear, and those gently worn were passed down to the next child in line. Yes, we had toys, but more often, we ran around outside playing with friends at imaginary games. We ate only at meal times, and when we did, the food was simple and filling. Often, beans were on the menu, and on those days when my little sister asked what we were having for dinner, the response would be, “Hundreds of wonderful things.” And why not when you consider that a two-pound bag of pintos costs only a few dollars even at today’s prices.
As much as I still enjoy a good pot of beans, white beans, or cannellinis, are what we most enjoy now. Often referred to as white kidney beans, they’re related to navy beans, or great northern beans. I often keep a can or two in my pantry, but I always have a small bag of dried beans as well. They find their way into so many different quick dishes these days — like pasta, soup, or salad. Our favorite way to eat them is with wilted dark greens such as chard or kale, and lots of garlic. On some nights, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed into the mix, and others, whatever pasta I have in the pantry helps bring everything together.
This recipe for “Cooked Shell Beans” is from Frank Sitt’s Bottega Favorita and is a good starting point for so many fabulous recipes, including a nice Bean Puree if you add some roasted garlic. Put a pot on this weekend, and enjoy all the possibilities.
With New Year’s Day less than a week away, I’ve found myself not wanting to wait until the traditional January 1st to promise myself that I’ll turn over a new leaf here and there in my life — or perhaps nine. Do I hear 25? After all the cookies and cooking, left-over food, and dishes to be washed, I’m ready for uncomplicated recipes, less sugar, and more vegetables. While I’m on the subject, a personal chef would be great, too, but since that isn’t going to happen any time soon, I’ll settle for a soup that’s healthy and easy to prepare. It’s elegant enough for a formal dinner, but is fabulous heated up for lunch when you want something flavorful and light.
This recipe for asparagus soup is different from a delicious Cream of Asparagus Soup I made recently in that it doesn’t contain milk products to achieve its creaminess. Instead, a potato is cooked and blended with the other ingredients to thicken the soup. Should you want a richer soup, a liberal drizzling of a good quality fruity extra virgin olive oil is enjoyable, but not necessary.
If you are one who appreciates a bit of cheese in soup, crumbled feta, goat’s cheese, or a curl of Parmesan are especially nice swirled into a hot bowl of this.
I’ve been so busy lately, I barely have time to procrastinate which confirms what I’ve always suspected: planning is but a series of decisions about what not to do so that I can do what I’d like. Sometimes this is simply not doing anything — or anything significant, that is. In the case of my food life, that means I’ve come to a complete standstill baking my way through Peter Rhinehart’s The Breadbaker’s Apprentice. Although I’m not a foreigner to bread baking, it isn’t something I’ve ever done routinely, and so any excuse not to keep the original pace I set along with others in the BBA Challenge group keeps me from taking on the next recipe.
I suppose I could blame my delay on Bittman and his salads. After all, the hottest time of the year is finally drawing to a close here and so the ease of throwing a salad together after a very long day would keep most people from baking anything. Or perhaps it was that last gas & electric bill reflecting three completely decadent days of central air-conditioning. Honestly, I’ve slowed down on my salad production as well. Although I still cook most evenings, we don’t get around to eating until nearly 8pm, so the idea of photographing any of what I prepare doesn’t compete with flopping on the sofa, visiting with the resident menfolk, and staring at the television. No, the serious cooking usually happens on the weekend now, and last weekend seemed to feature roasted green chilis, or what are known as Anaheim chilis.
I love them. I love their glossy bright green color, the fresh crunch of a bite right from the raw chili, and the smoky aroma that fills our house whenever I roast them on the stove. Also known as California Chilis, Anaheims are featured in chili rellenos. They’re especially good added to anything with cheese or eggs. I usually keep a can or two in my pantry, but they’re so easy to make I usually also have a few fresh chilis around. Occasionally they sit on the counter longer than I’d planned and turn red.
Planned…yes, there’s that word again. I won’t tell you what I planned not to do last Sunday as I wallowed in my favorite room in the house, but I did make Bittman Salad No. 25, a Fresh Creamed Corn & Green Chili Casserole, some Pan Roasted Red Potatoes with Green Chilis and Onions and a Roast Chicken that sadly did not benefit from green chilis.
Let me know if anyone has made ice cream with green chilis and I’ll be first in line.
I’d like to believe the weather we’ve been enjoying is here to stay, but I know our small slice of Paradise much too well. Instead of the often sweltering heat we experience in August, we’ve been treated to grey skies, cool, moist breezes, and yesterday, fat drops of rain that teased us late in the afternoon. It’s only a matter of time when vacations become a fleeting memory, kids are back in school, and freeways are once again jammed with rush hour traffic that it will get hot here and stay that way well into October. The heat saps one’s energy after a long day and making dinner usually isn’t high on the priority list, unless it’s something easy to make, cool, and satisfying. The added perk is that it’s healthy.
This soup’s for you on those evenings. It’s creamy without being full of fat-laden calories as long as you go easy on the cilantro creme. Make extra, because it’s even better the next day.
I’m pleased to say that I’m on a roll with Mark Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season” and surprisingly ahead of my original plan. My twelve-page print out from the New York Times, as many of my other cookbooks, is beginning to look respectfully used. With four recipes completed in five days, and a fifth on the menu for tonight’s dinner, there are bits of this and that splashed on the sheets, paper edges are beginning to curl, and my notes are scrawled on the salads I’ve tried so far. Clearly, I love this project.
Since we’re clearly in the time of plenty with respect to ingredients, I seem to be following the recipes in the Vegan category primarily. My fridge is packed with fresh veggies all vying for my attention, so they’re getting it. Hence, my second salad, No. 13 which was to have been a red salad.
Clearly, I chose a different route. There will be red, however. Wait for it…