It’s almost Mother’s Day, and I’m missing my mom. I called her today. It’s a rainy day, I’m kinda stressed by some things.
With that in mind, the only possible thing I could make today is Italian soup. My Dad does a good minestrone, but I wanted some beans, too. Obviously, this means white bean pasta e fagioli.
We’re not Italian by blood. We’re Italian by adoption, long ago, into the community of St. Anthony’s church in Rockford. Rockford has a vital and strong Italian (well, Italian with a large dollop of Sicilian) community, and we have always felt accepted there, despite my father’s and my blondness. Italian cooking is just ‘food’ in my family.
Italian soups are home to me. My mom, my dad. Flat landscapes and irises and lilacs and things that grow gigantic with zero effort. And oregano and tomatoes and pepper and garlic.
In other news, I bought the Mother’s Day cards for my mother (mailed, late, annoyed at self), mother-in-law, stepmother-in-law, best friend. I had my husband sign them with me. Told my stepson to make cards for his mother (my delightful ex-wife), and grandmothers (step and bio). (He hasn’t yet, busy with computer games.)
I bought 12 gorgeous chocolate-dipped strawberries for my husband to take to stepson’s football game tomorrow. I told him that he is to offer them to my mother-in-law, stepmother-in-law, and the ex-wife. (No, I did not poison them.) I have the best mothers-in-law a girl could ask for, and it’s strange how I feel like I’m a younger blend of the two of them. My husband thought the strawberries were just for his mother. I corrected him. I did the strawberries for ALL of them, my stepmother-in-law and mother-in-law. The ex-wife should have a damn strawberry, too. Because I’m the bigger woman, and I have to endure her for seven more years (noththatI’mcounting). And because maybe somebody should be an example to teach her son how to be courteous and kind to others.
But I don’t have to be there to hand it to her. I have to work.
I am a stepmother, and I offered to work tomorrow for a mom. I don’t mind at all working for her, I really don’t. (Remind me to thank Maile.) It makes it easier for me to not be there for strawberry- and card-passing. There’s no card, no strawberry for me. I’m not sure how much of that is contributing to my positively foul mood.
Today, I have been cleaning the damn house. And shopping for food, for meals I have planned out. And laundry. And cooking. And organizing things, and paying bills. Sometimes I’m awesome stepmom to my stepson, sometimes I’m meal ticket and maid. I love him. Those things all exist together.
When my mother would have these same moods (and I know she had them), she used to announce loudly, “Did I ever tell you the story of the little red hen? No? Lemme tell you about the story of the little red hen.” (Here is the story of The Little Red Hen.) She was also fond of saying that when her completely from scratch epic apple pie came out of the oven.
If I had energy today, I’d make a rockin Tuscan bread today. I don’t. I have too much to do. And don’t make me laugh that anyone else will do it. But I’ve made a vat of soup, and I can still have some with some freshmade bread the day after Mother’s Day. I will make it myself, and I love my Tuscan bread.
I’m pouring myself a glass of Viognier, and missing my mommy. When my soup is done, I’m going to tidy the kitchen and take it a bowl of it upstairs into my bedroom for my own damn pity party.
If nothing else, the little red hen always eats well. She eats very well indeed.
source: Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
- 1/4 c evoo
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 1/2 – 2 c hard veggies (potatoes, winter squash, turnips or parsnips) (I used potatoes because it’s spring.)
- salt & pepper
- 6 c veggie stock
- 1 c chopped tomato (canned is fine) (and I used canned today)
- 1 1/2 to 2 c soft veggies (green beans, zucchini, summer squash, kale) (I used green beans and zucchini)
- 1/2 c chopped parsley
- 2 c cooked beans(any kind, but for me it’s not Italian soup without white cannellini)
- 1 c small pasta(any kind of course, but ditalini is the only kind for this soup for me)
- garlic to taste(for me, this meant 4 cloves, knowing that I could have used double that…my husband probably not,though)
- parmesan to sprinkle over soup (optional…I didn’t because I didn’t have any today)
Put 3 tbsp evoo into large, deep sauce pot over med heat. When you get your ripples, add onion, carrot, celery. Cook until the onion softens, about 5 mins. (I added the garlic here, too, because it seemed unnatural not to.) Add hard veggies, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring here and there, then add the stock and tomato. Heat until mix bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every now and then, until veggies fairly soft and tomatoes are broken up, about 15 mins. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and reheat before proceeding.)
Add beans, soft veggies and parsley, until it simmers. Add the ditalini. Cook until everything tender and your pasta al dente, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, add evoo, and serve.
p.s. In case you don’t do this, I used dried beans I had soaked overnight. I didn’t measure them out. Soak, boil them for oh, I dunno, an hour or until they taste noncrunchy. Dried beans are always your cheapest option. Drain off the water they soaked in to get rid of those bubbles. (Not to be indelicate, but those bubbles you drain off will otherwise….well, you’ll eat them.) On the opposite end, ditalini al dente means just cooked enough to hold up the shape well, with no mushiness. After a day, of course, the ditalini will be soaked through, but that’s okay. Second day soup’s flavors are better anyway.