The days are growing so short that night is barely distinguishable from morn. We pack the lunches, scarf down our coffee, race out to work, and tackle what we can before the afternoon light starts to fade to gloom. The chill season is upon us. The potential for blueness is great. On days like this, my mind races to food.
I, for one, am a great proponent of shared cooking, and once our workday selves are liberated by the weekend, this means more than merely splitting the chores. A good friend of mine likens his Saturday mornings to “recharging his batteries.” I tend to run on low sleep and high octane and think weekends can be so much more.
Are you reading this in bed as you watch your partner quietly doze? Tap them on their shoulder, wake them with kindness. And as they wipe the sleep from their eyes, ask them this: “What is something fun and wonderful and risqué that we have never done together?”
Now, imagine flavors you crave. Scents. Textures. Seasonings and ingredients that make your mouth water. Sure you can sleep ‘til noon, and then look forward to an exciting day of checking off lists. Pay the bills. Skype with the relatives. Get a jump on the laundry. Voila! Before you blink, it’s Sunday night. Malaise, that old, familiar friend, has settled in. Again.
How about Plan B: a simple, indecent proposal. If you have kids, lose them for the day. Call the nanny. Or hire the teenager down the hall (don’t they always need a few extra euros?). You’re in Paris. It’s the weekend. Let the kids get out the door and find something to do.
Next (or afterwards, if the freedom of your indiscretion has captured the moment), don those overcoats, and nip out for a leisurely morning repast. A six-minute egg. A pain du beurre. Nothing too filling. You don’t want to extinguish that simmering flame of appetite.
Once the caffeine buzz has kicked in, seek out the nearest marché en plein air. Or your favorite market street. Browse. Shop. Sniff. Experience. Snap up a cut of meat or a pick of fish you have never cooked before. Fill your basket with vegetables crying for garlic and oil. Take risks. Go off grid. It’s food. It’s delicious. And rest assured, when you get it all home, there will be a recipe to guide you, somewhere online.
Routine is the enemy of romance; fear, the dividing line between meal and feast. The answer is only as limited as your imagination. It’s never too early for that first Pernod. Unpack the groceries. Put on some nice music. And experiment the afternoon away in a cramped kitchen with a sharp knife and a hot stove. The results can be tasty, if not an awful lot more.
Mrs. D’s Very Authentic Pasta Fagioli (pronounced pasta FA-zool)
This is fun to make together because it is impossible to screw up. You can serve with pan-fried fish, a cozy roast chicken, or a big fresh salad and a crusty baguette. Added bonus? It keeps all week and just gets better with age.
- A couple of pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes or a 28-ounce can of San Marzanos
- 1 large onion
- 2 or 3 stalks of celery
- 1 sixteen-ounce can of cannelini beans
- Several cloves of garlic, plenty of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. of ditalini noodles (though anything small and tube-like will do)
- Salt, pepper, thyme or herbes de provence
Heat 3 or 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a large sauté pan.
Finely chop the fresh tomatoes (or substitute the canned San Marzanos).
Finely chop the onion and celery and put aside for about 90 seconds.
Sauté as much garlic as you can stand and then some (at least 3 cloves).
Dump in the onion/celery mix and sauté until soft, maybe 5 minutes?
Add your tomatoes. Keep stirring and add salt and pepper to taste.
Get the noodles boiling in a 6-quart or larger stockpot. You’ll need them in 10 minutes.
Add the cannelini beans to your now-enormous sauté! Add herbes de provence and more seasoning to taste. Let simmer until noodles are ready.
Drain noodles. Dump the entire sauté into the large stockpot. Re-add the noodles, and do not worry if they still have pasta liquid. It will get absorbed.
Thoroughly stir your gigantic stew and turn off heat. Cover. It is delicious now. Even better in about four hours. (Add some chicken broth and stir when reheating.) Good for 3-5 days, with refrigeration. Mangia. Buon appetito.