Winter soup of flageolet beans simmered with tomatoes, sage and thyme.
I’m a list person. Every night I record things on my smart phone that I need to do the following day, and prioritize them. Keeping them on my phone means they’re close at hand for updating all through the day and evening. It makes me feel oh-so-organized and superior as I whip out my iPhone at a dinner party to add something to the list someone’s asked of me. Each morning, then, I pull on my sweats, and pad from the bedroom to my small office off the kitchen in thick comfortable socks to check off my list, full of super-efficiency as I tick down the items. My transition time between tasks is an Olympic fraction of a second. Check, check, check.
A couple of days a year it actually works like that.
But mostly I add five new ‘to do’ items for every one completed. Some days, nothing gets checked off. Half the time, I don’t even know where my phone is. A couple of years ago, I started adding things to the list at the end of the day that I’d done but had never listed, just so I could cross them off the list. Pretty soon ‘brush teeth’ and ‘get dressed’ were added as if to prove just how productive I’d been that day.
One week, for fun, I estimated the amount of time it would take to actually do the things on my list. It took so long due to the length of the list that I needed to add ‘estimate time’ to the list (after ‘floss’ and ‘make bed’). In short, I need 36 hour days, sometimes longer, to accomplish that list.
My life-long challenge is that there’s nothing I want to eliminate – I want to do it all. Join a book club? Count me in. Work out four times a week with an exercise buddy? Sure. Cantonese classes, write a food column, and fly to Russia to meet Putin? Absolutely. I am woman. Hear me roar. But as we get closer to launching into a kitchen remodel that the contractors all swear can be done in 3 weeks, 4 tops (I’m already sensing some good blogging material there) I need to find ways to simplify life. As my husband, Carnivorous Maximus will attest to, when I get over-extended, my roaring has a plaintive, desperate tone to it that makes me
bitchy less pleasant to live with.
One thing I’ve done to simplify is to make more soups. They’re easy, filling, a great opportunity for vegetables, grains and legumes, and can be made ahead. Best of all, a recipe is frequently an unnecessary added burden. I just perform a scavenger hunt through the refrigerator to see what odds and ends I have on hand, make sure I have a good combination to build an aromatic base, and then decide on a star. Last week it was celery root. This week I had some plum tomatoes. The result is a great soup without the fuss, leaving more time to work down that list.
I can’t be the only one with this overbooked life challenge. What do you do to simplify life?
The reserved bean broth can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks to add to soups and casseroles as an alternative to, or in addition to vegetable broth.
You can soak the beans the night before and eliminate the first step. In that case, use three and a half cups of vegetable broth when cooking the following day.
Divide the soup in half and add a smoked ham hock to the omnivore’s portion. Alternatively, keep the soup vegetarian (or vegan, without the Parmesan finish), and serve slices of roast ham with the soup for the meat eaters at the table.
- 1 cup dried flageolet beans
- ¼ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 plum tomatoes halved
- 10-12 sage leaves
- 2 large thyme twigs
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup Leek Confit or 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 1 cup reserved bean broth
- 2 cups vegetable broth, depending on how thick you prefer the soup
- 2 ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Pick through the beans, discard any stones, and rinse well. Place in a wide, heavy pot and cover with two inches of water. I use a Le Creuset pot that allows the beans to lay in a single layer. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, and maintain a simmer for about an hour. Drain the beans but reserve any bean broth left. I frequently have a good 2 cups or more left over.
- Put the beans back in the pot and add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the salt and vinegar. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender. Add salt and balsamic vinegar.
- Serve with a few grates of Parmesan cheese on top.