Monday was a great day, culinarily and otherwise. I don’t know if I mentioned it here, but for the past few months Hook and I have been saving stamps from our local Lucky store — stamps to be redeemed for [so-called] professional quality cookware. The stamp program works thusly: for each $10 one spends in groceries, one receives a stamp. Each piece of cookware is assigned a stamp value, and when one has collected enough stamps, one gets a new pot or pan or skillet or whatever. After days of absent-mindedness, I finally picked up my new Dutch Oven, and it is a beaut! Yes, I’m aware that my participation in and enthusiasm for this stamp program is a little housewifey (ca 1963), but you know what? I don’t care! I was going to buy groceries, anyway — why not collect stamps and get free shit?
My delight with this new piece of cookware prompted me to buy a soup mix (something I’ve never purchased before) and make a batch of mostly-from-scratch minnestrone. The mix itself contained a bunch of dried beans, a few dehydrated potatoes, and a mysterious “spice packet.” To this, I added (per the recipe) a large yellow onion, chopped and sautéed until tender; a can of tomatoes; three quarts of water; and pasta. On my own, I tossed in two bay leaves, a heavy sprinkle of pepper, and a ton of carrot coins.
While Hook and I watched “Mad Men,” the soup simmered, filling the house with the warm odor of herbs. Every now and then, I’d get up from the couch, stir the pot, replace the lid, and settle in for more fictional, mid-century drama. (Note: I’m not sure why Hook and I postponed watching “MM” for so long, but damn, were we mistaken in our heel dragging!)
Just before I had to hit the hay, the soup was done. Lacking the vibrant orange broth popularized by Campbell’s version of the Italian classic, my minnestrone was nonetheless fragrant and thick; the carrots added necessary color (and freshness), and the pasta and potato coins were both tender but not overdone. In other words, this soup mix was a success. I just had a bowl of my semi-homemade soup, and it was spoon-lickin’ delicious. In the future, rather than relying on a mix, I may just gather a bunch of dried beans, whip up my own mysterious spice blend, and roughly follow the directions that I used for this pot of soup. I think the result will be similarly jawesome.
Soup wasn’t my only project this week: I also baked gingerbread. Why gingerbread? Why not! Seriously, though, I had finished reading Laurie Colwin’s “A Writer in the Kitchen,” which includes a recipe for traditional Southern gingerbread, and I thought, “Hey, I have most of these ingredients in my cupboard and I have a free afternoon.” I was also struck by Colwin’s description of gingerbread as a “cheap luxury,” for that’s really what it is. It’s relatively uncommon on menus, home and restaurant alike, but it’s rich and homey and really easy to make. It is also very easy to eat, let me just say.
Yes, this week was all about comfort food, as I predict the coming days will also be. On Friday I caught the COLD OF DOOM and have consequently been wanting to eat only the most basic things: bread (I baked a loaf on Wednesday), crackers, diet Canada Dry. I may yet make ice cream tomorrow, if I feel up to it. If not, expect a post or two about the delicious meals that Hook will be sure to make me*.
*On Friday, on which day I missed work, Hook made Niman Ranch lamb burgers with Point Reyes blue cheese, served with rosemary and garlic new potatoes. I should get sick more often(!) Heh.