When I read a food article like Helen Rosner’s “The Female Chef Making Japan’s Most Elaborate Cuisine Her Own,” (from which I swiped “sensory strobe light”), I think I’m not trying hard enough. Very few exotic ingredients, so little “plating,” so much grabbing and going.
But then I realize we’re lucky enough to eat really well for two working folks without a ton o’ time or money. We eat very little fast food, lots of fresh fruits and seasonal vegetables (not the 72 annual micro-seasons of freshness Rosner writes about in the magazine piece). We try something new (recipe, ingredient) at least once a week, and we’re upping our seafood consumption while scaling back on red meat (no more than once a week). We’re building a repertoire of easy-breezy supper recipes than we can actually put together after work.
“All” that’s required is some meal/menu planning, a good shop at least every two weeks and some weekend or early morning food prep. I do still — will always — need to know what we’re eating for supper when I head to work or the Y. Otherwise, we’re too likely to wind up in a drive-through. The “all,” of course, is a joke. It’s taken me 73.5 years to get a handle on it or at least start to get a handle.
But it’s worth it. I believe the foods we eat — or don’t eat, like sugar — are the primary pathway to good health at any age, particularly advanced ages, just when so many people get “tired” of cooking or even eating. Sparky flavors encourage interest in both.
Also, we have the countless benefits of growing our own. We probably have more than 72 seasons around here, thanks to Stoic’s gardening wizardry.
Yesterday, two days before spring’s official arrival, I picked baby kale for this soup, kale that’s not even distantly related to the tough, stinky leaves you’re liable to find at the grocery. Stoic’s kale with its bright blue stems is so tender that it barely needed massaging, so fresh it left no odor on my hands after I removed those stems. It’s as good as spinach, which is highest praise in my cookbook.
The recipe comes from a recent newspaper supplement. Unfortunately, I didn’t jot down which one. You’ll see no added salt — that’s because the vegetable juice has a gracious plenty. Recipe says you can substitute rice or pasta for the barley, but I happen to love barley. Quaker sells a pearled barley that you should find with other grains and rice.
My only changes were to use black beans instead of cannellini because that’s what I had, to add some opened beef broth for part of the water and to serve the finished soup with a tablespoon or so of shaved Parmesan. Yum city.
Vegetable juice minestrone
3 cups vegetable juice (V-8 or generic with salt)
3 cups water or broth or a combination of both
1 cup quick “pearled” barley
1 19-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chopped kale
Parmesan for garnishing (optional)
Bring juice and water (broth) to a boil in Dutch oven or other large pot. Add barley and garlic. Reduce heat, cover and cook 12 minutes. Add beans and pepper and kale. Simmer until tender, no more than a few minutes. Serves 6. If you’re only 1 or 2, freeze some in 1-1/2 cup servings.