The Bean Eaters


As you may have gathered from the four pages worth of bean-centric dishes I’ve blogged about here, we like our beans, so I was very happy to learn that dry heirloom beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine would be returning to our Wintertime Farmers’ Market.

Dinner:  December 14, 2009

I’ve made some version of this white bean and roasted garlic soup for ages – probably since my teenage vegetarian years. I’ve done it with canned beans, with fresh beans in season, and with cooked dried beans, and I have to say the the last version is probably my favorite, as the bean cooking liquid adds so much flavor to the soup. In previous versions, I’d roast a head of garlic at the same time the soup cooked, but now that I’m making batches of garlic confit on a fairly regular basis, I’ve taken to adding some of that instead. You don’t have to use white beans, of course – but I like them here for aesthetic reasons.

Garlic Confit

1-2 large heads of garlic
extra virgin olive oil

Separate the cloves from the heads of garlic, peel them, and lay them in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. Add just enough olive oil to cover, then cook in a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or so. Allow to cool, transfer the garlic and oil into a covered container or a glass jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

1 cup dried white beans
Kosher salt
12 cloves garlic confit, plus 1 T of the infused olive oil
2 cups leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cup diced carrot
¼ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2-3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 parmesan rind
1 cup diced peeled potato
1 cup small dry pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Rinse and pick through the beans, place them into a pot and cover them with 4-5 cups of cold tap water. Place a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are just tender. Season with salt and let the beans cook just a bit longer until they are seasoned. (You can do this ahead of time and store the beans in the refrigerator or freezer in their cooled cooking liquid.)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the garlic-infused oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrot, and celery, season with salt, and cook until soft. Add the oregano and bay, let cook briefly until fragrant, then add the wine, allowing it to bubble up for a minute or two. Add the parmesan rind, water, and potato, and let cook until the potato is tender when pierced with a fork. Mash the confit garlic cloves until they form a paste. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, the garlic confit, and the dry pasta, bring to a boil, then simmer until the pasta is al dente. Add the spinach right at the end, stirring it through until it is bright green and wilted. Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind and spoon the soup into bowls, topping with grated parmesan if desired.


The Great Unknown

Dinner:  December 3, 2009

This week has been a struggle. Just last week we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday and expressed our gratitude for, among other things, how well our Kali has done with her treatment for anemia, but that same night when she stretched out on the table for scritches, we discovered something troubling – a lump. Mike pointed it out to the vet at Kali’s Monday appointment, a cell sample was taken for testing, and we waited. I’ve been distracted and out of sorts all week as a result, fretting about the unknown and fighting to stay healthy myself while seemingly everyone around me battles one bug or another.

little sammiches

I’ve also been fighting exhaustion – mental, pysical, and emotional. So much has happened during this whirlwind year, and while there are some potentially great things for us to look forward to in 2010, they are all still very much up in the air, and the weight of all the uncertainty we are facing has been difficult to bear. It has been hard to find inspiration, hard to find words to put down on a page, hard to just keep going day after day.


And while I planned and planned for our Thanksgiving meal, I never really got around to sketching out meals for this week. I brought home a mishmash of produce from last Saturday’s farmers’ market, but without any advance plans it has been difficult to get interesting meals to take shape this week. So there was pasta. And pizza. Soup and more soup. By last night soup was all that I wanted, a big bowl of cream-laced tomato, with tiny grilled cheese sandwiches alongside. Comfort in a bowl, a variant of one of my oldest “recipes“, something simple and warm to help chase my blues away.

The call from the vet came this morning, the results, “inconclusive.” We’ll keep waiting, and watching, forging ahead through the uncertainty until answers start to appear. I see a lot more soup in my future.

Last Hurrah

last hurrah

Yesterday was not one of my better days. My stomach was churning as much as my mind was, and my lack of appetite made it hard to think about what to make for dinner. By the time I was halfway home, I had decided on soup, but it wasn’t until I remembered the tomatoes on the counter that a plan took shape.

You see, I bought those tomatoes, green, at the last day of the Hope Street farmers’ market at Lippitt Park. My intent was to pickle them, or at the very least to fry them, but they sat on a plate on the counter, forgotten and turning from green to pink to ripe red. November tomatoes – a gift. I had to use them, and while they were surprisingly fragrant when I cut into them, I figured the best way to coax as much flavor out of them as possible would be to roast them.

Dinner:  November 16, 2009

I also had fennel from the weekend market – not a planned purchase, but when I saw those green fronds peeking out at the Simmons Farm table, I couldn’t resist. The fennel would get roasted, too, then the roasted vegetables and all of their rich juices would go into a pot of broth and shallot softened in butter. That done, I pureed it all until smooth, a little tickled at the beautiful orangey hue the soup took on as everything blended together. The soup didn’t really need the cream I added at the end, but it was Monday, and a little extra softness is always welcome on a Monday, don’t you think?

You can get the recipe at food52.

Soup for One

I’ve had Heidi’s post about Richard Olney’s Garlic Soup bookmarked since the day it published, and with Mike away for the evening, and me trying to build up my system in advance of the coming cold and flu season, I finally gave it a whirl last night. And let me tell you… wow.

garlic soup

This dish is incredibly simple, but what a showcase for super-fresh, really high quality ingredients: a head of garlic I picked up from Kimball’s at the Tuesday farmers’ market in Boston, just before boarding my train; Zephyr Farm eggs with their gorgeous orange yolks; torn pieces of crusty ciabatta; and (my one variance from Heidi’s version) stock Mike made just that morning, from leftover bits of our favorite pastured chicken.

Dinner:  November 10, 2009

I drizzled on some of our best olive oil, then tucked into a bowl of pure goodness while enjoying a quiet evening alone.

solo dinner

The soup, and the evening, were just as restorative as I had hoped they would be.

The Beginning

Dinner:  October 5, 2009

Yesterday’s news about the demise of Gourmet magazine left plenty of folks feeling nostalgic, myself included. While I had allowed my subscription to lapse earlier this year, one of many things we’ve had to give up since becoming a one-income household, I continued to purchase as many issues as I could at the newsstand, and was always struck by the quality of the writing as well as the beauty of the photos. It was inspiring, plain and simple, and I’m sad to see it go.

So while people all around the internet thought back yesterday to what Gourmet meant to them, how it influenced them, and how best to celebrate it, I thought back to how all of this started, how I came to be a girl who pored through food magazines and cookbooks like some pore through comics or mystery novels. As an 11 year old girl standing at a stove in a little brick house on the east side of Detroit, making onion soup from scratch for the very first time – not from a recipe, but from the memory of a bowl of soup I had at a restaurant and wanted desperately to recreate – I never would have dreamed that some day I’d be sharing so many meals with so many people.

Saying goodbye to Gourmet feels like saying goodbye to an old friend, but it feels like we’re entering into an exciting time for food and media. I’ve had a tremendous number of new and new-to-me blogs and websites and people turn up on my radar over the last few months, and it feels like as that part of my world has grown bigger, it has in many ways gotten more intimate. I’ve said it time and again – food brings people together. I am forever grateful for Gourmet and to all who contributed to it for showing me the possibilities that existed beyond the food and food culture of my youth, but I look forward to seeing where inspiration will come from next.

Soup Season

Dinner:  September 21, 2009

I arrived home last night with no game plan as far as dinner was concerned. I’m still in a bit of a rut, and the fact that darkness falls shortly after I get home in the evening isn’t helping. Summer’s over, and another long, cold New England winter isn’t far away. It’s soup season again.

We had potatoes on the counter and leeks in the crisper, so a potato-leek soup was my first thought. Our default is usually Julia’s Potage Parmentier, but I wanted to switch things up a bit. We had a batch of freshly made chicken stock in the fridge, plus a couple of hunks of Cheddar and the last of a bunch of fresh dill, so all of those made their way into the pot. I added a couple of blobs of Dijon mustard for tang, pureed the soup with a stick blender once the potatoes were tender, and served it up with crusty bread on the side and a little more fresh dill on top. This soup was quick, comforting, and bowl-licking good – a definite keeper. I’ve posted my recipe here.