Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The Recipe

1 1/2 cups assorted dried beans (I like kidney, big lima, chickpeas, pinto- use what you've got)
1 bay leaf
2 rinds from pieces of Parmesan cheese (more or less)
7 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry savory (or marjoram if you don't have savory)
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
2 zucchini, sliced into rounds or half rounds as you prefer
1 small bunch beet greens, kale, spinach or what you like, sliced into thin short strips
1/2 cup orzo or other small soup pasta- OPTIONAL
2 Tbsp. fresh or frozen pesto -OPTIONAL

Soak beans overnight or at least 6 hours in water to cover by 2 inches. Drain well and add to a medium-large pot; add the broth, cheese ends and bay leaf and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off but keep handy.

Meanwhile, in a larger (6-7 quart) pot, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Saute carrot, onion and celery for 4-5 minutes until beginning to brown. Add garlic, thyme and savory; stir one minute. Add the beans in the Parmesan broth to the pot along with the tomatoes & oregano; bring back to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Add sliced zucchini and greens; cook until greens are almost tender, maybe 5 minutes or so, depending on the green. Add the pasta at the appropriate time to cook per package directions, and serve.

If you have leftover or frozen pesto cubes, adding 2 or 3 right before serving is nice. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf. The cheese rinds should be soft enough now to cut into smaller chunks if you like to eat them (we do!)

The Story

I always keep the rinds from wedges to Parmesan in the back of the cheese drawer, wrapped in plastic with a rubber band, waiting to make this soup. The Parmesan adds a richness and depth of flavor that is otherwise unattainable without meat stock. The cheese is very tasty to eat after it's been cooked so long.

The last time I made this soup I bough kale to use, but a day or so before I made it I came across some great organic beets and used those leaves instead. Use what you like, but remember that kale will need more time than beet tops, which need more time than spinach.

If you use the pasta and there are leftovers, the pasta will continue to soak up broth and the soup will become very thick while the pasta gets soft.

At the end of the season, I harvest all my remaining basil and make pesto. I freeze it in ice cube trays and put the cubes into bags to add to soups and sauces all winter long. I'm just using up the last ones now.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

The Recipe

3/4 cup bread crumbs (unseasoned)
1 cup cream, divided
1 onion, medium-finely chopped
1 egg
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp (generous) ground allspice
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk

Stir 1/2 cup of cream into bread crumbs in a large bowl. Let sit 5 min. Add the onion, egg, ground beef, salt & allspice. Combine with your hands (this will not be easy, since the breadcrumbs are now like cement, but you'll get it.) and shape into meatballs*.

Melt butter in skillet over med-hi heat. Add the meatballs in two batches and brown; remove to plate. Sprinkle flour over pan drippings and stir to form roux, making sure to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add remaining cream and milk, whisking continuously. Bring up to boil; add meatballs and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or so. Serve over noodles. Easily feeds a family of four with leftovers for lunch.

The Story

This is not for the weak of heart or the high of cholesterol. Only have this dish twice a year, even if your health is good. Savor it like crazy when you do.

This is a (very slight) variation of a recipe from "Many Hands Cooking: An International Cookbook for Girls and Boys" by Terry Touff Cooper and Marilyn Ratner. I started my cooking career young, since my parents hated to cook and I showed some promise in it. I made all sorts of ghastly things involving hot dogs, frozen vegetables and canned soup that my folks and I found in pamphlets and on the backs of boxes & cans. Rarely was fresh food involved. When I was ten, my grandmother bought this cookbook for me for Christmas; I quickly found recipes that we would eat (Dad was picky) and went to town. These meatballs are among the best.

The sad thing is, I never got to thank my grandmother. She was the kind of person who bought gifts well in advance of holidays. She bought this book for me for Christmas, but she died in the summer and it was given to me when her house was cleaned out.

Thanks, Grandma.

Last year, at a library book sale I found the sequel "Many Friends Cooking" by the same two authors. I snatched it up immediately. I haven't made anything from it yet, but maybe it's time to teach my oldest to cook more things...

One thing that I have changed is I now cook with organic butter/meat/cream/milk. Unfortunately, the organic label doesn't change the fact that this dish has enough saturated fat in it to suggest you should put a cardiologist on speed-dial. Man, though, as a splurge- it is yummy.

*note on meatball size: I always made these too big. Swedish meatballs are usually small, cocktail size meatballs, but I'd make them the size of meatballs you'd find with spaghetti. My mother even went so far as to buy me a scoop to try to make them the small size. I never did it. I still don't. Make 'em as big as you want.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Whole Earth Center

Fantastic article in the U.S. 1 Newspaper about the expansion of the Whole Earth Center in Princeton.