Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit!

Everyone, including my in-laws, has been begging for the recipe to the infamous soup that triggered an avalanche of love (and gas) in our family.  I must say there isn't a recipe more fitting, more tasty, and in the end more humorous than this bean dish to start off my recipe sharing career! 

In one try this quick meal became a grand slam in our house.  Not only do I love it, which really is the key factor to this quest, but my husband begs for it.  This dish is crazy easy.  Most items are stocked in your pantry, there isn't a ton of prepping, and move over Rachel Ray, this dish start to finish is ready in 10 minutes or so!  The hardest part of this meal is picking a wine to go with it!  This is a great meat alternative meal jam packed with protein, vitamins, and oozing with flavor.  It's warm; it's hearty; it's fresh. I promise it will become a midweek must have!

I found this recipe in Cookie Magazine in the January 09 issue.  They were doing a spread on beans! Needless to say, it caught my eye.  Loving anything in a tomato base, I thought I would give it a try and I'm so glad I did!  I added a few things to suite my tastes but as is the recipe is great for you and your kids. 

 "Fagioli-on-Toast" as is in Cookie Magazine:
4 thick slices of country bread (Buy a good crusty french loaf)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced 
A few fresh sage leaves 
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes ( Buy Pom or Muir Glenn whole peeled and crush yourself)
1 15oz can of cannellini beans (If you can't find cannellini, try Great Northern or white)
1/2 tsp salt (Kosher for more flavor)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (... or more!)

1. Sprinkle the bread with 2 tbsp oil.  Toast the slices until crusty and golden.
2. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic and sage and stir until the garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute.
3. Add the tomatoes, beans, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.  Cook until the liquid is reduced and the soup is slightly thickened, a few more minutes.
4.  Serve, placing a toast into each soup bowl or generously spooning the beans and broth right over the bread, if the kids will let you.  
Tip: This is a great way to use up day old bread, or try tossing the soup with pasta.  

How I tweaked it:
Before you oil the bread, rub some fresh garlic cloves on them for flavor.
I thought it needed a little sweetness so I sauteed some shallots with the garlic and added 2-4 more cloves of garlic.  It's the base of the flavor so go for it.
I added some chili flakes for a little kick in the oil.
I added toasted pine nuts for a bit of crunch. 
I threw in a tbsp of unsalted butter at the end for some depth.
I topped it off with a drizzle of nice olive oil, good quality shaved Parmesan Reggiano, and fresh Italian parsley.  

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!  These are easy ingredients to stock for those don't-know-what-to-make nights.  You can even freeze your leftover fresh sage for the next go around. Remember good quality ingredients make for better tasting fare. Bonn Appetite!!

Falling in Love with my In-Laws!

As I glance across the room, I am warmed by the rare moment of my husband lounging with his parents.  The glow of relaxation and enjoyment oozing from his smile as they reminisce about his childhood, ignites butterflies in my belly.  I am pleased to know despite the stress and sleep deprivation, that the man I fell in love with is still here! It is so adorable to see a grown man cuddle up with his parents! Passing around baby pictures and comparing features to our boys is really wonderful to witness.  Everyone is happy. Everyone is present. Living so far away is hard; especially, when we enjoy moments like these.  

As I watch them like an after school special, I can't help but think of how anxious I was around my in-laws at first and how far we've come as a new family.  Slipping into a sweet think tank of emotions, I chuckle at the memory of our first visit. I was so overwhelmed, so desperate to please, so overcome by the differences, that I would tear up from implosion, usually around dinner time.  Being a new couple, there were a lot of emotions, I wasn't quite ready to explore with my husband.  I spent a lot of self therapy time in the bathroom. Often I would purposely dice super ripe onions for dinner so I could sob without harassment. I wanted to love them immediately and the guilt of my hesitation wore me down. Families are just so different, not bad, just different.  It usually takes a minute or two to get adjusted, even though technically you are supposed to fall in love with them instantly.  How could I call someone Mom and Dad that I really just met?  It was an interesting transition for me.  

And now, seven years later, after enjoying another wonderfully peaceful day with my in-laws. It dawned on me.  This comfortable feeling of just being able to be, not to mention the enjoyable conversation and the kind interactions were all turning our relationship in a new direction. My heart was seeing these people in their best light, the sort of light only family can see you in.   I finally became open to this budding love.  They were not just Eric's parents any longer, they were becoming my family.  More importantly they were becoming family for my boys. Witnessing the bonding process, the similarities, the quirks, the connectedness between them was moving to my soul. And it moved me to a place where I was at peace with my self in their company.  I felt safe. I felt loved back. I didn't need to try any more, I could just be.   It had been a long road to get here but I have arrived to a nice place where I can truthfully say "I have fallen in love with my in-laws!"

Just as I formulated this wonderful warm fuzzy in my whole being and considered starting a group hug, I am slapped back to reality by the  lovely yet familiar sound of post-dinner gas! Yup, I said it. Finally it had happened. No more trying to run to the bathroom.  We must all have been feeling the same depth of comfort.  Usually, offended or embarrassed, I found myself somewhat humored and even honored by this incident.  In fact in some cultures the best compliment you can give a cook is to loudly and proudly pass gas! At that moment, I took it as such. In all fairness, I did serve Cannellini bean soup!  After good chuckle and an open window,  I realized stinky or not, this was a moment to remember! This proudly marked the starting point to a new and improved relationship with my in-laws. We had come full circle and I am excited to enjoy them in this new light.  Atlas the time has come...Let 'er Rip!

Sending Some...