When I titled a post 290, one reader wrote me and reminded me that my remaining number of recipes was far fewer than the number of days we all have to live with Bush as president. Cracked me right up. She has a point – and if I could, I’d switch “days left” with the country, for the world’s sake. Think of the lives it might save.
But there’s no lifesaving going on here – just me, plodding along, starting to daydream about what will happen in January.
The things I’ll do then, when this project is over:
I will cook something new and not write it down. My neighbor will ask for the recipe, and I’ll have to shrug, and tell her about it rather than send her an email.
I will sear chicken breasts and make sauces with different herbs, mustard, and cream or white wine, throwing salad and bread or a quick quinoa dish onto a plate while the chicken sears, and plop it on the plate unceremoniously, without thinking of photographs or the fact that I’ve made it before.
I’ll start in on cookbooks again. Oh, all those wonderful books with the pages marked. They’ve been so patient this year.
I will eat my husband’s rice and beans, with cheese stirred in so ferociously the beans look split and haggard. He will fry eggs, and we’ll slide them on top, under a slip of salsa. And then I’ll do the dishes for him.
I will make white bean dip, over and over, to feel its smooth, cool texture across my tongue.
I will wear one shirt for an entire day without getting it dirty (yeah, right).
I will hope someone will invite us to dinner at their house. (This is a sometimes-downfall of enjoying cooking: people often hate cooking for you. Everyone thinks you care how creative they are, how nicely browned the meat is, or where they got their cheese, even though usually, at other people’s houses, you simply don’t notice. But you probably know that already.) Then I will open the refrigerator, and there will be no leftovers.
I will buy Brussels sprouts, or kale, or apples, at the farmers’ market, discover a new favorite way to cook them, and do it over and over, until Tito asks how many nights in a row we’ve eaten that one thing.
I’ll make grilled cheese and tomato soup when snow falls.
And then, truthfully, I will probably come back around to doing what I’m doing now – creating, recording, and sharing good, homemade food, mostly with what’s in season. But without a calendar.
See, some days, like today, the calendar makes me feel mute. I find local ground lamb at a farmers’ market, and as it sears, its rich lanolin scent filling up the house, all that comes to mind is hey, it smells like lamb in here. It seems unfair to you, dear reader, that this year I post even when I’m feeling least inspired.
But. . .soon. Today is 300.
This recipe gave me a good lesson on tasting my food, even if it comes from a can: I opened a can of fat Italian lupini beans to add in as well, rinsed them, and popped one in my mouth. Its saltiness seared; every taste bud recoiled in horror. So I didn’t add them. But if I had, the chili would have suffered. Phew.
Lamb and White Bean Chili (PDF)
Recipe 300 of 365
Stirred in over a base of leeks, fennel, and rosemary, lamb makes an interesting, delicious version of chili. Serve with good, crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For lamb pasta e fagiole, increase the chicken stock to 6 cups, and stir in a cup of small pasta during the last 10 minutes of simmering.
TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings
1 pound ground lamb
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups chopped leeks (from green and white parts of 2 medium leeks)
2 cups chopped fennel (from 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce can white cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
Preheat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the lamb, breaking it up as you add it to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the lamb and all but about 2 teaspoons of its fat to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the leeks, fennel, garlic, and rosemary to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Add the wine, and simmer 1 minute, stirring. Add the beans, stock, and tomato sauce, plus the reserved lamb, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste again with salt and pepper, and serve hot.