Items you’ll never find in my pantry or refrigerator: Lima beans, asparagus, eggplant, black-eyed peas, rutabagas, celeriac, spaghetti squash, brandy, sherry. Yet I hasten to point out that I’m not a picky eater, because that list is pretty much the limit of stuff-I-won’t-eat.
So, some months it’s easy to choose recipes for this project, for Brother Victor-Antoine frequently uses ingredients from my never-list, like celeriac (2 recipes in May alone) and brandy (2 other recipes). Often the recipe’s name draws my attention, but I tend to go for soups or salads that allow me to use ingredients I already have. And now on to this month’s selection.
I love a good tomato soup, so d’Avila’s Shaker-Style Soup, which starts with a can of tomato paste and calls for lots of fresh dill, seemed worth a try. Add minced onion (which I sautéed first) and water, bring to a boil, then stir in milk and heat, and then stir in some sour cream. Even as I type up the ingredients, I think, “This ought to work.” But it doesn’t. The tomato paste is just too overpowering as a main ingredient. The soup was slightly better the next day, but I’ve still marked this as a recipe I don’t need to make again. I have other, better options for the rare times I want to make tomato soup.
Saint Christopher Soup was my next selection, and it would be difficult to find a simpler recipe: Red cabbage, vegetable broth, lemon juice. It looks exactly like Borscht, which I make about once a year when I get a yearning for that beet-sour cream contrast. But back to St. Christopher. Pickle the shredded and minced cabbage in lemon juice for an hour, then add this mixture to boiling vegetable broth. Salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done. As a note to this recipe, Brother Victor-Antoine writes that St. Christopher Soup “is often used in France to ease indigestion problems or hangovers.” That reminds me of Munkholmen, an island about 40 minutes from Trondheim. A Benedictine abbey was established there in about 1100 CE, and the monks’ parties were often so loud, they could be heard back on the mainland. Perhaps they knew about the restorative properties that d’Avila refers to. I can assure you, a little of this soup goes a long way, but I haven’t been able to test it as a cure for a hard night of drinking. I don’t expect I’ll ever need to.
I had better luck with my salad choices, finding two that I’ll be happy to repeat in any season.
First, Farfalle and Chickpea Salad. Farfalle (bow-ties) are a finicky form of pasta, needing the impossible: two cooking times. But unlike turkey or chicken, you can’t chop up the pasta and cook each part separately. The pinched centers will still crunch after the rest of the pasta has reached al dente, so the timing is never perfect. But what makes this salad is the good dose of chopped fresh basil, along with cherry tomatoes, diced green pepper, minced Vidalia onion, parsley, and the chickpeas, then dressed with a light vinaigrette. This is a hearty salad, good on its own for lunch or dinner. I sprinkled a bit of parmesan on top, but bocconcini mixed in would also be just right.
Radicchio and Tomato Salad from Venice surprised me with how good — and versatile — it is. Radicchio, tomatoes, red onion, red bell pepper, a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Quick to put together, lovely to look at, and equally lovely to eat. The next day, I added arugula and parsley, and it was just as good. And the next day I topped it with some mushrooms I’d sautéed with shallots and allowed to cool. See what I mean? I bet this salad would be good on cornbread — I must remember to try that next time.
Remember, if you’d like a copy of any recipe, just let me know. I can easily send it to you. Happy cooking to all!