Making the rounds in the garden, lately I’ve been thinning little heads of things like frisée, escarole, pan di zucchero, and radicchio so their brethren can expand to full size. I like to manage my thinning as attentively as I can; keeping track of the progress of various greens allows for using them at all the points of their growth cycle, from tiny sprouts to big fat heads and everything in between. Left too long, they get too crowded, but done right means more food from each bed. The work of the last few days has been to remove the last of the too-close small heads so the rest can grow up unimpeded. And since it was escarole’s turn, that led inevitably to this soup.
This is what arrived today, along with the beaming sun and a nice cool breeze to keep the sweat from getting out of control. I got half the garden planted; almost all the early stuff is in. The rest will wait for the warm-weather crops, so I can concentrate on various fruit beds and getting the asparagus in. I’m exhausted. And, just so you don’t think that every meal here is something lavishly extravagant, behold:
This time of year I am a sucker for artichokes. There’s really only one way to make them, and to then combine carciofi alla romana with tender white beans and crunchy homemade toast produces one of my favorite late-winter meals. Soon enough artichokes will be out of season, right around the time that my reliance on vegetables grown more than 50 feet from my house will end. Until then, they’re my vegetable guilty pleasure.
I’m busy, so I have a backlog of posts that I want to write but haven’t found time for yet. This is something from a few days ago, and illustrates a principle that may be my very most favorite of all kitchen truisms: that charcuterie and a well-stocked pantry and freezer can make seriously high-quality food appear as if by magic in next to no time at all.
I’ve been on a no-meat sort of run lately, trying to resist the cold-weather hankering for braises and such by digging deep into various traditions that know their way around some legumes. Tonight was burritos with quite good black-eyed peas, leftover brown rice, guacamole, and salsa I froze in September. Very satisfying, but not especially interesting or photogenic. Last night I made a version of something I first did a while back, with some unintentional differences as a result of poor planning. The result was still good to eat, I’m happy to report.
So when I wrote the last post I thought it was a pretty nifty illustration of the way in which I try to let the previous meal inform the current one, thus making efficient use of the various leftovers and remnants in the fridge and making me feel like I’m living up to the expectations of my frugal, persecuted ancestors. Joking aside, I think that an excellent counterweight to our rampant, compulsive materialism-as-grasping-antidote-to-spiritual-bankruptcy culture is the conscious production of good food at home. And, like Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, those leftovers kept on givin’. You betcha!
Instead of pickling them, I’ve been leaving green beans on the plant once they get beyond the filet stage, which is the only stage where I really enjoy them. Once fat and fibrous, they make a decent 3-bean salad, especially when run through my Grandmother’s antique bean slicer up in Vermont, but the thrill is pretty much gone. So, along with our dragon’s tongue beans, I’ve been shelling and drying them instead with an eye towards soups and stews and, of course, cassoulet–that apotheosis of beans–and something this chilly, rainy spell is steering my mind towards with increasing force. Read the Post Grow Your Own