So this morning The Husband and I settled on (and reserved a spot with) a spring hiking tour in Italy. Very excited. I love hiking and walking and scenery. Forget Rome, Milan, Whatever. Give me a path and some sky. My idea of a great time.
Tonight: What’s for dinner? Well. It’s winter. I’m lazy (oh, soooo. fucking. lazy.) But I wanted to “cook.” But it’s the end of the month and there’s not much in the house and it’s cold and I’m not going out.
So: Make dinner from what’s on hand. (Which, okay, is how I cook every day. Indulge me.)
And in this case, my hands and brain thought “Italy.” (For more, see the Back Story below.)
What’s In the Kitchen Italia
(So, no: this is NOT a recipe. This is what I did with what was on hand. Your results will vary.)
- a bit of bacon (pulled from the freezer)
- onion, chopped
- slightly desiccated carrot, chopped (last one! Note to self: add carrots to shopping list)
- limp piece of celery, chopped
- garlic — I had teensy bits so I used the press. (A great invention, the garlic press)
- chicken broth/stock (various leftovers from various other dishes, all of it in the freezer)
- a squeeze of tomato paste (man, oh, man, I love that Amore stuff)
- can of cannellini beans
- fistful of tiny Cherub tomatoes (see note below)
- handful of frozen spinach (thawed)
- salt, pepper, a bit of dried basil, a bit of dried oregano
- small fistful of farro
- small fistful of some small pasta; not sure what, and too lazy to go look at the package
- bunch of frozen bread pieces
- chunk of parmesan rind from my bag of said in the freezer
I cooked the bacon, which only entered the picture because I wanted its rendered fat. (The Husband ate the bacon while he washed dishes after dinner.)
Removed the bacon. Cooked the onion, celery, and carrot in the fat, with an added swish of olive oil. When I thought they were ready, I added the tomato paste and garlic. Added basil and oregano and some salt and pepper.
While that cooked, I heated another pan (hot!) and in it toasted the farro. (With care. I didn’t want it to burn). Added that to the soup pan. Stirred. Cooked slightly. Added the tomatoes. (Actually, I’m not sure in what order I added stuff once I’d added the tomato paste and garlic. Whatever.)
Added the broth and about half the can of beans (they’re big. I didn’t want them to take over). Added the pasta. Then the frozen spinach. And parmesan rind.
Dumped the bread on to a sheet pan and put in the oven on about 400 degrees. After about six minutes, I removed the pan from the oven and set it aside. While all that was happening, I clobbered The Husband at Uno. (‘Bout time, too.)
Time to serve. I put the bread in large, flat bowls (aka pasta bowls). Added the soup. Grated a bit of parmesan on top.
And . . . we ate and were happy.
Again: This is what was in MY frig. Your soup will differ. But you can still make a meal.
TOMATOES: Yes, I know it’s late December. In the real world, there are no fresh tomatoes. But . . . I keep a tub of Cherub tomatoes on hand. Yes, they’re evil. Yes, they’re likely grown and harvested by “slave” labor. Yes, I’m an asshole middle class consumer. What can I say? Cherubs are tasty. And . . . have you ever craved a grilled cheese-and-tomato sandwich? In the winter?
End of discussion.
I love to walk. I don’t qualify as a hiker because I’m more into, well, walking. Uphill. Downhill. Flat terrain. Rain. Snow. Makes no never-mind to me. My feet and legs and I love it all.
I’ve always wanted to walk in Italy and hey!, in 2015 that will happen. (Because The Husband and I are now at the point where we KNOW that if we want to do something, there’s no time — or body — like the present. My legs can do a hike now. In five years? Maybe not.)
So today we confirmed our plan to hike in Italy. We’ll be in Amalfi in late May, walking. Or hiking. No, this won’t be like the Peru trip. Bare minimum, Bill can no longer handle a trek of that sort. So this will be easy walking. In gorgeous surroundings. I’m excited.
And, yes, I’m so so so fortunate. Thirty or forty years ago, if someone had told me I’d be waxing rhapsodic about a trip to Italy, I’dve been all, like, “What the fuck drug are you on, buddy? Whatever it is, you’d best get off it before you destroy your brains.”
But geez, this is my life and I get to hike in Italy!
So tonight I was thinking about Italy and Italian food. "Italian" was the first “food” I learned when I taught myself to cook forty-plus years ago. Those Italians! They wowed me. They never wasted anything. Not cheese rinds. Not bread crusts. Nuthin’.
Now, of course, I know that frugality lies at the heart of all cuisines. The great joy of cooking is that nothing need be wasted. And I first learned that by learning to cook “Italian.”
And tonight as I rummaged through the fridge, I kept thinking “Italian, Italian. What would the Italians do?”
So: Your refrigerator and freezer are calling. Go make soup!