Bean and Wheatberry Stew

This stew will be prettiest (in my opinion) if you use a white bean like cannellini or navy, but there is no reason to run out and buy anything special to prepare it. Use whatever is on hand in your pantry. Wheatberries can be found in health food stores and co-ops. Farro or spelt are good options as well.

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices of bacon, chopped

1 cup wheatberries

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 [15-ounce] can diced tomatoes, including liquid from can)

½–1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (the heat level is up to you)

1½ quarts chicken broth or vegetable stock

2 packed cups chopped Swiss chard

2 cups cooked white beans (see page 20 cooking tips)

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and bacon and cook, stirring until bacon is browned and crisp. Remove bacon from pot, leaving fat behind. Add wheatberries and toast until just a little darker.

Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook until vegetables are softened, 6–8 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes.

Add broth to pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until wheatberries are tender, 60 to 90 minutes.

Stir reserved bacon, Swiss chard, and beans into pot, and cook until chard is wilted and the beans are hot. Add a little water if the contents of the pot are thicker than stew-like. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into soup bowls and give each serving a generous glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly shaved Parmesan.

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Farm Lunch Minestrone

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Serves 4–6 hungry farmers as a main meal.

11:00 Put ½ pound brown lentils in a small pot and cover with 2 inches water. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and 2–3 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

11:05 Heat a large pot of water for pasta.

11:10 Make a battuto: Finely dice 1 medium onion, 1 carrot, 4 cloves of garlic, and 1 stalk of celery (if you’ve got it) or some parsley. Sauté gently in a capacious skillet in olive oil over medium heat. (If you’re not serving vegetarians, add 2 ounces of diced bacon or uncased sweet Italian sausage to this mixture.)

11:30 When everything is nice and rosy, add 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes or 1 quart of homemade tomato preserves. By this point, your pasta water should be boiling, so you might as well salt it (2 tablespoons) and get the pasta cooking. I like to use ditalini or other small shapes. Don’t forget to check on the lentils to make sure they are actually cooking and have plenty of water.

11:35 Wash 2 bunches of Tuscan kale or another green. Kale, chard, or spinach work equally well, but not broccoli rabe or mustard greens. Strip out the tough center rib and coarsely chop the kale. Add it to the tomato sauce, but don’t overcook the pasta, which should be done by now. Strain it into a colander when it’s al dente, then return to the pot you cooked it in and drizzle with a little oil (2–3 tablespoons) to keep pasta from sticking. 

11:50 By this point, the lentils should be most of the way there. Taste them to make sure. There should be several cups of rich broth left in the lentil pot. Add the lentils and broth to the tomatoes and check for flavor. It should taste salty. If it doesn’t, add salt.

11:55 Heat 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and add 1 bunch of chopped fresh sage. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes to infuse. It’s OK if it browns a little, but don’t burn it. Meanwhile, set the table, make a pot of coffee, and get the parmesan out of the fridge. If you find any bread in the house, you can put that out, too.

11:59 Add the kale, lentil, and tomato mixture to the pasta in the pasta pot. Pour in the butter, taking care not to add the sage leaves. I find the sage itself to be quite bitter, but the aroma to be intoxicating. The mixture should be fairly brothy but not soupy. 

Make Bouillon While the Sun Shines

Make Bouillon While the Sun Shines

Frozen ground and the first snow quiet my squirrely stockpiling instincts and wood-stacking ambitions. Hypnotic snowflake lullabies coax me into my cave for hibernation. This surrendering feels like an arrival. In March, flowing sap tickles my food storage impulses, burying treasures in full crescendo until late October. Then, at some unpredictable moment, the point of no return hits, or so I would like to imagine, where no more work can be done and it’s time to tuck in and pillage the larder.

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In the summer, when you have garden tomatoes coming out your ears, this is a soup to rely on. Being bakers, we, of course, always have a lot of bread on hand, so Tomato Bread Soup is one of our go-to meals. Traditionally it’s made with stale bread, but we toast the croutons, so you don’t need to have stale bread for this recipe. Still, the soup makes brilliant use of a loaf that is a day or two old.

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I make asparagus stock with the trimmed off ends of asparagus spears. You can hold the stock in the fridge, but it tends to ferment in a few days; so it is best to freeze or pressure can it. There is no USDA data for asparagus stock. I have based my pressure canning time on the recommendation for whole raw asparagus tightly packed into a pint jar. This is the same timing as the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving uses for pints of vegetable stock.

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

I developed this recipe when the kitchen I was working in needed to use up a lot of extra cauliflower. Due to our clientele's dietary needs, it also needed to be low-fat and law-salt (and vegetarian). Like most soups and stews, this soup tastes even better the next day. Since it contains no dairy (except as an optional garnish) or potatoes it also freezes really well. This is a fabulous way to use up any not-so-nice storage cauliflower.

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