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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beacon Bits -- Snowed In

It has been a week since the blizzard of 2013. I've had this blog post on my mind since the day I was snowed in, but something seemed to be getting in the way of my posting. I think I must have had flashbacks to the winter of 2011-2012 when I moved 'north' to the Hudson Valley and realized I was in an entirely new weather zone. It seemed as though there was an exponential increase in inches of snow expected as you traveled up the Hudson River from  the Tappan Zee to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge/Route 84 corridor.
Do not get me wrong. I like winter and I appreciate a good snowfall. It was just an awful time to move and get settled into a new area. I was again reminded of that particular winter today, when I stopped by the Farmer's Market, now at the Mill Street Loft in Lock Dock Beacon of how I missed the welcoming fireplace of the Beacon Sloop Club (the previous home of the market); it really felt like the hearth of my new home when I made my weekly trip for comfort food: All You Knead raisin and walnut bread and Migliorelli Farms cider and apples.
But getting back to this year's snowstorm, being snowed in last week allowed me to make my pot of soup one day early. I had made a New Year's resolution to make a different soup each Sunday so that I had a quick and hearty meal and plans for freezing some for a snowy day. Since New Year's I had made lentil, French three bean, old-fashioned chicken, Scandinavian fruit, and vegetable minestrone soup with rigatoni. Black bean soup was next in the queue. But I realized I didn't have cilantro, not one of my favorite herbs, which is essential for its distinct flavor.
So I made a run to Key Food for cilantro before the snow started. Funny thing was that a guy in line was getting cilantro for a tortilla soup he and his girlfriend were going to make. I realized necessity was in the eye of the beholder. No bread or milk for either of us.
Mt. Beacon standing in wait for the blizzard

I imagine that the run on supermarkets before a storm arrives is less about fearing that there isn't enough food in the cupboards, but rather, it's about planning to make a home cooked meal that just may take that extra time that arrives as a gift with the weather report. (Assuming you can plan to take the time away from scheduled activities and remain off the roads as advised by the weathermen, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie.)
Cooking is a soulful way to prepare for the unexpected. It can be meditative. It focuses the attention and becomes a creative act (especially if you don't follow a strict recipe, which is how I make soup.) I so enjoyed the process that I forgot about the storm until the snow started to fall. Magically, I felt the primitive response of knowing I was safely at home, just as the deer bed down long before the weather arrives, I had hunkered down to fill the air with pleasant aroma and to anticipate the warmth and good feeling when the soup spoon hit the bowl.
Some food for thought:  Soup seems to be the perfect meal for sharing in community. The story of 'stone soup' that comes together when everyone brings something to add to the pot is one of my favorite versions of re-telling the story of the fishes and loaves that are multiplied to feed the hungry. If everyone contributes something, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe that is why I made the resolution to make soup each week this year. It is a reminder to always be prepared to feed unexpected guests. It symbolizes hospitality much more than any pineapple ever could. Soup is a celebration of every one's special gifts. It is a blessing to feel the synergistic properties of taking out one pot and adding one ingredient after another. It's great when you hear the call, "soup's on."
Black Bean Soup with a Twist
Step 1.
Saute chopped vegetables in 2-3 tbs. canola or olive oil until all are wilted.
(1 large shallot, 1 orange and 1 yellow pepper, 1 large green zucchini, 1 dried red chili pepper)

Step. 2
Add a handful each of fresh chopped cilantro and parsley and 3 cans (14 oz. ea.) of drained and rinsed black beans
Step 3.
Add organic chicken broth (32 oz.) and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4.
Add 1 cup blanched kale (frozen from last year's CSA share) and 1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine; cook for 20-30 min. more.

Step 5.
Transfer soup from pot (somewhat cooled) into blender and puree until as smooth as desired and place in large bowl.
You can also keep the soup chunky or reserve 1/2 as is to add back to 1/2 of the pureed mixture. Your option.
Return to pot and heat until hot enough to serve.

Step 6.
Serve in a bowl and garnish with more cilantro.
(This serving is part chunky and part smooth.)
Enjoy with multi-grain tortilla chips or warm bread, such as nan, and some hard cheese, like Dubliner. Why not?
This recipe makes 4-6 servings, depending on the size of the bowl.

Step 7.
Take a walk for a view of Mt. Beacon post-storm (before or after the soup, maybe even both!)


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