Scarola e Faciole: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Pancetta
If you, like me, are suffering through these grey upon grey single-digit days, reading Dostoyevsky while sipping a good Russian vodka could provide some comfort. Sipping said vodka while watching Dr. Zhivago might be another plan. These activities, of course, accompanied by a good cup of soup– always a good leavening agent.
Take Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, “The Brothers Karamazov”. In the midst of a heady conversation between Ivan and Alyosha, soup is brought into the story:
“Though I may not believe in the order of the universe, yet I love the sticky little leaves as they open in spring. I love the blue sky, I love some people, whom one loves you know sometimes without knowing why. I love some great deeds done by men, though I’ve long ceased perhaps to have faith in them, yet from old habit one’s heart prizes them. Here they have brought the soup for you, eat it, it will do you good. It’s first-rate soup, they know how to make it here…”
It’s a random mention, but why not? For the brothers, perhaps soup provides more of a tangible relief from life than than their more ethereal topics at hand.
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, we’re in Dostoyevsky-mode now, folks. And may I suggest something that the brothers might have enjoyed? Perhaps Borscht or an Oxtail Soup? Or maybe a White Bean and Escarole Soup?
Here’s another something/something that helped chase away my blues. My publishing company is reducing (for a limited time) the price of a physical copy of THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I’m grabbing copies for book club signings as I can’t get them any cheaper than this–even with an author discount. (US residents only: $6.99 per paperback. Free shipping for Amazon Prime, recipes included)
Most of my friends are in accord that it’s difficult enough to get your dwelling in shape for a party much less entertain, supply the bar and party food fare. Especially during the busy holiday season.
My group is happy to pitch in, bringing a dish, a bottle, or in Frederick’s case (pictured at the piano) musical talent to help ease the strain. I’ve had several such events of late–all different crowds–so took the liberty of repeating myself by stuffing various fillings into endive leaves.
Last week I stuffed the leaves with my recipe for Walnut-Dill Chicken Salad (pictured above). If I was really short of time, I could have purchased some ready-made chicken salad, as well.
Last night I decided to stuff them with langoustine salad (recipe below).
Endive stuffed with Langostino Salad (recipe below).
I used a package of langostino tails, which have a meaty-lobsterish taste and texture, which I purchased in the frozen seafood department at Trader Joe’s. You could, however, substitute them with shrimp in the recipe below. A crab salad would be wonderful stuffed in endive but I would use a vinaigrette base instead of mayo.
Most seafood departments in my area have various ready-made spreads and seafood salads that would be marvelous stuffed in endive. A smoked fish, chopped up an tossed with chopped red onion and capers would also be heavenly.
I wish you and your family a stress-free holiday season, filled with an abundance of happiness and peace. ♥♥♥
This morning we woke up to the first real snow of the year––good thing I’d purchased a chicken. The following is a recipe I’ve been tweaking each winter when the snow flies; this year I added a cup of dry lentils to the rice. Below, you’ll find a slide show I made several years ago after visiting friends one snowy winter in Colorado. My friend’s husband demonstrated to me how to make his specialty: Clay Pot Chicken.
Use an unglazed clay pot,or at least insure the lid's unglazed.
Soak non-glazed clay before cooking.
My friend organizing ingredients.
Toss long-cooking rice w/vegies & aromatics.
Season, place pats of butter over breast & under skin, stuff w/onion & tie legs.
Always put clay pot in cold oven, THEN pre-heat.
Nothing goes to waste; entrails for the dogs.
My friend serving sautéed livers & gizzards to his
Clay Pot Chicken & Rice
Ready to eat.
The leftovers make awesome chicken & rice soup.
Roasting chickens is my favorite way of using my clay pot, and it’s a technique that has been traced back to Roman times. My recipe varies according the the ingredients found in my fridge. You can mix brussels sprouts or cherry tomatoes into the rice before roast. Perhaps you’d prefer a cajun rub to the rosemary one I used.
Many use an all-clay unglazed Romertopf roaster. According to Saveur. com, the Romertopf was invented by a German and is modeled on an ancient Etruscan design. Today, they are produced in Mexico with the same mixture of clays as the originals.
I use a 4 1/2 quart clay roaster at with a glazed bottom and unglazed lid that I purchased locally. The moisture absorbed in the large domed lid distributed moist heat producing a tender, evenly cooked, golden bird. The aesthetics of cooking in a natural, earthen element are pleasing; a beautiful oven-to-table serving dish.
Not only does the snow inspire my recipes, it also inspires my characters. My work in progress, THE MAIDEN TOWER, has a character who’d just left Idaho and moved to Key West. This morning as I watched the snow fall, I tunneled into two of my “maidens”, Linnea and Delphina, as they talked about snow:
“So back to snow,” I say, feeling a pang of sorrow for my twin. “How does it smell?”
She pinches her nose. “It’s hard to articulate. I can describe the feelings I get when it snows—content, safe, cozy. And what snow makes me want to eat—fondue, meaty stews, sticky pudding—foods that are unappealing to me down here. But I can’t explain the smell.” She shrugs. “Snow is so beautiful, and yet it smells like nothing.”
She chews at a cuticle on the side of her forefinger, a puzzled look on her face. “Not everything that’s beautiful in nature has a smell. Unless you’d consider nothingness a smell.”
“Aha! You’ve combed the country searching for a place that suits you, and all you’re looking for is nothing? That’s a healthy, Zen approach to life.”
Linnea’s eyes glaze over, and when she speaks, it’s in a hushed voice. “When it snows, it’s always a miracle. There’s a stillness, a sanctity in the white space that surrounds me.” She wraps her arms around her midriff and shivers. “I snuggle deep inside myself, and drift. The landscape’s a blank page and its beauty is experienced in its nothingness. That nothingness, Delphina, is my chapel. What, to me, is holy.”
(Speaking of holy, BTW, the holy grail of earthenware cookery: Never put a clay pot in a preheated oven; it may crack. As well, on soak the elements of your pot that are UNGLAZED.)
Taste buds prickle; wanderlust triggered. An Argentine barbecue (asado)
enticed me to Patagonia. A friend gave me a vial of ground sumac berries--4 months later I was
waking at dawn to the "Call To Prayer" in Turkey. Porcini to Tuscany, and so on. Read more about my chronicles of
trips and favorite associated recipes. Browse my travel recipes...
Here are ideas gleaned from others that speak to me;
where I highlight projects that bring friends, neighborhoods, and communities together. For me,
complimentary food makes the project and event more fun. Browse my projects and related recipes...