The night before last I didn’t start dinner until after 6pm. It was a busy day preparing for a lecture I have at the Denver Botanical Gardens on September 25, various writing assignments that I am pecking away at, a trip to Li Li Wu, the acupuncturist, who is treating a sciatica condition I’ve been battling for a few months. I love Li Li. She nods and pats me when I ask questions, which, if not informative, is definitely soothing. I also had a long pre-interview with a fellow at PRI about mushrooms. He must have not minded my tendency to swear (I love to swear) because he booked me to talk about foraging on their Science Friday show at 3:30. Anyway, all this would have led me to make pasta, my fall back position in a dinner crunch, but since I’d made the bean soup the day before with the leftover beef and eggplant stew as a base, all I had to do was add a handful of chopped chard and a pint of corn I found in the freezer.
While the soup was gently boiling I put Monday’s chicken stock into 5 pint jars and pressure canned them. After 10 minutes of venting, only 20 minutes to process!
And I’d bought this giant cauliflower at the farmer’s market Monday, so Tuesday I parboiled the flowerettes (and stem and leaves—they’re all edible!), and sautéed half of it in tomatoes and onions, with the leftover vinegar water from poaching the cherry peppers last night. When the cauliflower was soft, I added a handful of black olives, salt and pepper, and garnished with parsley. This dish is great mixed with browned chicken pieces, BTW. The other half of the cauliflower I planned to use for dinner Wednesday night.
I had forgotten to make bread but I did have some Oak Grove Mills corn meal I bought at the farmer’s market, so I made cornbread. I prefer to make it with buttermilk, but I didn’t have any, and I like to use duck fat, but I didn’t have any of that either. So I made it with milk and butter instead. The bread was good, but I think the real reason why it was tasty was because of the corn meal. I’ve been buying whole wheat from Oak Grove as well: grown and milled on the property, it is so much more, well, wheaty than the dust I buy in the supermarket.
By 7:30 we were sitting down to bean soup garnished with Parmesan cheese and a dribble of olive oil with corn bread, followed by cauliflower with olives and a piece of gorgonzola cheese. I am living with my two adult children right now and last week we had a family meeting (eggs poached on a sauté of sweet red peppers and onions, homemade bread, red wine) where we went over stuff like Kitchen and Meals, Due and Subscriptions, and Overnight Guests, and I don’t know why, but our agreements seem to be holding. One of the “rules” is if they want to eat dinner with Kevin and me, they have to tell me in the morning. So far, they’ve shown up every night.
Bean and Corn Soup from Neni’s Beef with Eggplant Stew
2 cups leftover stew
3 cups fresh cranberry beans or 2 cups of dried cranberry beans soaked overnight in water
2 cups chicken stock
1 Parmesan cheese rind (if you have it)
2 cups chopped Swiss chard leaves
1 ½ cups corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat the stew in a medium-sized soup pot over a medium heat. When the stew is hot, add the beans, stock, and cheese rind. Cover and gently boil over a low heat until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes for fresh, and up to an hour for rehydrated. Add a little water as needed to keep the soup soupy. Add the Swiss chard and corn, cover, and gently boil until the corn is tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove the cheese rind, add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with the Parmesan.