For awhile, there’s been nothing but gloom and doom about the economic situation of this country and, now, the world. At first, the word was RECESSION. I confess I don’t actually know what that means, because it’s a math-related word. I know it means a slow down in consumer spending and confidence and that it’s not as bad as a full blown DEPRESSION. Which seems like where we are now. Millions of people unemployed, large and small banks failing, financial giants right along with mom and pop grocery stores. Nothing good about any of this, it seems. Even our law firm is experiencing a slow down – a senior associate was laid off this week and the woman who harangued our dead beat clients was “released.” I was informed, to my great relief (I think!), that I would be the last to go. That I would, so to speak, go down with the ship. If, in fact, that happened. Gee, thanks. I have to say that I am emotionally attached to our younger associates, as they are about my oldest daughter’s age. I have sort of a maternal instinct toward them and want them to be happy and well and successful.
I must say, however, that there seems to be little hard evidence of a recession/depression around here. Husband and I were at that huge Whole Foods last weekend and despite the parking lot being bigger than a couple of football fields, there were few unfilled parking spaces. I was at Valley Fair last night and had a hard time finding a parking place. The parking lot of Safeway was full this morning. Later this afternoon, I went to Santana Row (to a bakery for macarons-well-ok, Anthropologie for a little bit) and it was packed, stores and sidewalks and parking garages. I stood in line for macarons and to check out at Anthropologie (new drawer pulls for the china cabinet and a new wrap…because I don’t have NEARLY enough wraps) and the store was full. So, it’s kind of surreal to hear gloom and doom and experience the opposite.
Now for the Confession portion of our show. I confess that although a part of me is really nervous and wants to give in to the fear atmosphere that’s being spread about, I’ve decided instead that I am going to remain positive in the face of the reality of hard times. I am going to believe that the Universe is simply rearranging itself and that something much better is in the making. I am going to believe that good things will eventually come of all this disarray. I am going to believe that the perfect job is out there for the associate who was laid off at our firm and that she will one day be glad to have been “released” from what was, for her, a sometimes unhappy position.
Now, let’s talk about food and cooking, because that’s what I did today. I made veggie soup, baked a butternut squash and made lemon/parmesan risotto this morning. Then, I cleaned up and went for macarons. This particular veggie soup has become my favorite comfort food this winter. This winter in which I cannot seem to get warm unless I’m in bed under the covers…….Anyway, it’s just olive oil, onion, carrots, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, potato, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and tomato paste, chard and cannellini beans. If you have a parmesan rind, all the better! First, cut up everything except the chard (and beans) and saute in olive oil – start with the onions and work your way through the rest.
It’s so colorful and really goes together quickly despite the number of ingredients. I enjoy the prep work, particularly if my knife is sharp! And, it’s so full of veggies that are essentially “free” on WW, that you can eat all you want without guilt.
Once you get the veggies in the pot, add 6 C water and 4 of those little broth packets. Then a 14 oz can of tomatoes that are called Mexican Recipe – tomatoes with herbs. I put a whole little can of tomato paste in even though most recipes call for a few tablespoons. Because, really, what do you do with part of a can of tomato paste? And, it makes the broth a nice consistency and kind of sweetens it.
Cover and cook over a medium low heat until the veggies get softer. Rearrange the contents now and then, but just let it be for an hour or more. After I got the soup to this point, I whacked open a butternut squash and put it in the oven to bake.
I was at Jen’s earlier dropping off The Composer is Dead, a little box of cookies and some arnica for Nate’s bruised hip bone (he’s a fearless skateboarder) and snagged a couple of ripe lemons from her tree, making an on the spot decision to add risotto to the weekend’s cooking list. I have a really good recipe for lemon/parmesan risotto. I really do. Of course, I have not the slightest idea what book or bag of clippings it’s in, so I just sort of followed the instructions on the box, adding white wine because, people, you cannot make a decent risotto with out it, and substituting shallots for onions, because I like them better in risotto.
The recipe called for 5 oz of arborio rice and said it served 3. Three! That’s dumb – double it and measure out 10 oz. Chop up the shallots really finely and put some olive oil and butter in the pan. Saute the shallots, add the rice and kind of “toast” it.
You need to put about 6 C of broth on to simmer – I used the little packets but didn’t want the broth to be too brown or too salty, so used 4 packets instead of 6. Next, add some white wine – between 1/4 and 1/3 C should do it. I gotta say, the fragrance of the wine with the olive oil, butter and rice is lovely. Once the wine cooks down, you start adding the broth, a ladle at a time and stirring pretty frequently. I read while I do this. And, now and then rearrange the contents of the soup pot. It always amazes me that the rice can absorb so much broth before it gets really done. When it does finish, add grated lemon peel and grated parmesan and salt to taste. Yum. And, if you must, you can add fresh peas, but it’s light and fresh just the way it is.
It’s a lovely color, isn’t it? Stir and stir, add broth a ladle at a time and read and check the soup then back to the risotto. The squash gets done before the risotto. Flip the squash over and melt a generous pat of butter on each half, grind some Himalayan Pink salt over it and then back to the risotto.
Now, it’s time to take the red stems out of the chard and chop up the green leaves for the soup. Chard is like spinach in that what looks like a LOT cooks down to very little. Then, once the chard is in, add the beans and cook til the chard is wilted. Once the veggies are soft, add salt. Here’s the finished soup…
I like to put a square of (Whole Foods Gluten-Free) cornbread in a bowl and then ladle on the hot soup. Big glass of milk and divine! Well, very comforting, anyway. And, not fattening!
Husband and I thought we might to up to the City today and visit the Ferry Building and farmer’s market, but then we learned that we were custodial parents of Charlie for the day – so Husband decided that next weekend would be better. And, it was gray and cloudy and windy most of the day, so just as well. However, the Ferry Building means french macarons and I was all set for them. Thus, the visit to the baker at Santana Row. They have 5 flavors in the regular size: chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, lemon and coffee. I don’t like coffee but they also have a long, narrow box of mini-macarons! The box has 2 each of lemon, orange, chocolate, grape, pistachio, strawberry and raspberry. They are bite size! I meant to take a picture of the cute little things in the box………but then there was a stop light or 10 on the way home, and, well, a few went missing.
Tomorrow is a spinach and cheddar quiche and pasta with eggplant meatballs and eggplant parmesan. We should have a good food week next week! I hope you do, too!