When times are tough, you’ll often find me in the kitchen. And no, not just eating my feelings, although my emergency candy stash does not consume itself. But when I’m truly untethered — at a loss for understanding, for strength, for comfort and for direction — my initial instict after the first waves of emotion ebb, is to grab my cookbooks, rummage through my cabinets for available ingredients and fervently and purposefully cook.
It busies my hands and steadies my body that otherwise wants to keep moving but to nowhere and to no end, while the monotous chopping and meticulous recipe following mechanically sorts the madness in my head into a rhythmic order. The primal need to care for and nourish those I love is a way for me to find that center and sharing a meal or a moment with friends and family grounds me and pulls me home.
Cooking a pot pie does not solve the worlds’ problems, but sometimes the cut onions camouflage my tears for my children who expect me to be their compass and the quiet clarity bestowed by the simple concentration of baking cookies…flour…sugar…salt…allows the path forward to come into focus. The coming together that homecooked food inspires — that human connection — refuels and reheartens the detemination to forge ahead tomorrow.
Over the years, I have used this space as a way to connect with all of you and I have very much wanted to get back at it. This felt like a good time to start. You will probably be seeing a lot of favorite recipes again from me in the coming days and I hope that you will try them and take a moment with those you love. For a bit of levity, you may scroll down for more — some hits…and some of my, ahem, misses. If you have a dessert that brings your family and friends together or a souffle that soothes your soul, I would be thrilled for you to also share it here. Everyone is welcome at the table.
Sending LOVE from me and Lola…
I have shared this one before, but it’s one of my all time favorites for a reason:
Excerpted from the wonderful The Family Dinner cookbook by Laurie David. A very special cookbook that offers recipes, anecdotes and ways to bring the family together at the table. The book’s gorgeous photographs are by my talented and dear friend Maryellen Baker. I’ve added a few personal *notes on how I’ve used this recipe at my own stove. Enjoy!
WHITE BEAN AND TINY PASTA SOUP
by Kirstin Uhrenholdt
8 ounces tiny pasta, like orzo, tiny shells or small macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 15-ounce cans cannellini or great northern beans, drained (or 5 cups home-cooked beans)
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
Rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese (optional, but very tasty)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
*Grated Parmesan (my own addition)
*Kale (my own addition)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Slices of rustic bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted
TO MAKE 6-8 SERVINGS
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat up your soup pot and drizzle in enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Sauté the pancetta with the onion until golden. Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer under a lid for at least half an hour. (This soup is happy to sit and simmer quietly on your stove for an hour, although you might need to add a little broth.)
Remove the rosemary and Parmesan rind. Puree a cup or two of the soup in your blender. Even easier, stick a hand immersion blender into the soup for a quick moment, just until it thickens a bit. *I spoon a few cups of the soup into a large bowl and use the immersion blender there. This way I don’t over-blend and annihilate all of those hearty white beans.
Fold the cooked pasta into the soup. (If you have little kids, perhaps you should save a bit of pasta and use it as garnish, to assure them that there is something they like in the soup.) *The soup is so hearty that I actually leave all of the pasta on the side. This way, my husband and I can enjoy the soup on its own and our kids can “make their own soup” by adding it in.
Taste for salt and pepper.
*I also add a bit of grated parmesan to taste as well at the end. And, while it’s to part of the original recipe, I like to add a bit of kale at the end as well.
* I leave the following out, but these are optional garnishes in the original: On the rim of each soup bowl, balance a slice of toast, ladle the soup on top, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and a shower of Parmesan and parsley.