I spent Christmas Eve building a gingerbread house with my oldest daughter and it was an absolute joy. I made this gingerbread recipe, drew up my own plans, and went for it. Then, with the help of two containers of very cheap grocery store frosting and lots of candy, we constructed a pretty charming little cabin. I liked making this one with minimal planning, but already I can envision a future in competitive gingerbread house building. It fulfills my 9 year-old self’s dream of being an architect, except with frosting. So very much frosting. Then, I made a cheesecake for Christmas dinner. read more »
One of my lesser New Year’s resolutions was to eat more cooked greens. For whatever reason (somewhere between an aversion to extra dishes and a hatred of soggy greens), I’ve never really cooked my greens. Until now. So far, I’ve blanched and sauteed, and without a soggy green in sight, I’m loving the results.
Besides, if you never cook your greens, you’ll never get potlikker. read more »
Everyone has their lucky New Year’s foods. For me and a group of friends, it has always been beans* and greens. This year it just didn’t work out. For days, we were too sick to cook.
Last night I decided to rectify the situation.
Though the pickings at the farmer’s market were slim on Saturday, Brian managed to pick up some beautiful mushrooms, shitake and oyster. The oyster mushrooms were the inspiration for this hearty (and lucky?) winter stew made with sweet italian sausage, leeks, pinto beans, and oyster mushrooms. What can I say about this soup? It just hits the spot. A perfect simple dinner for a January night. The sausage is the predominant flavor, but the leeks and mushrooms really help to round things out. I love broth. I have a hard time not drinking it all before the soup is ready. If you eat dinner at my house a lot, don’t worry, I only do this if i the soup’s just for me. This broth is warm and buttery, complex in flavor and homey. I think you’re going to like it.
There is a lot of room for experimentation here, and really, it would be hard to go wrong. Play with the broth; I used dry vermouth, but you might like white wine, sherry, or cider vinegar. You should also play with the ingredients; Cannelloni beans, black-eyed peas, chopped collards or kale, shallots, scallions, or several cloves of whole garlic would be delicious.
*Historically, and because of my allergies, we have eaten pinto beans, sometimes with black-eyed peas on the side, and collards or kale. I am severely allergic to all nuts and beans (except pinto beans, navy beans, coconuts, and pine nuts) and break out in hives if I eat eggplant or rhubarb.
New Year’s Stew
Sausage, Mushroom, and Leek Stew with Pinto Beans
(serves 2 or 3)
1 lb. sweet italian sausage, carefully sliced 1/4″ thick
1 leek thoroughly cleaned* and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can of pinto beans, rinsed
1 1/2 cups oyster mushrooms, carefully cut free of large stem
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups water
salt and pepper
In a large dutch oven or stockpot, brown sausage coins over medium heat, roughly 7 minutes. Then tilt the pot so excess fat can run to one end, carefully ladle it out. Throw in the leek and onion and saute until tender, add the garlic and stir. Increase heat to medium-high and pour in the vermouth, stir while it sizzles, roughly one minute. Add the stock, water, pepper, and beans; bring to a boil. When soup has reached a boil, stir and turn down to a simmer (look for a few delicate bubble streams, nothing more). Add the oyster mushrooms and continue to cook, uncovered, for at least an hour. After 45 minutes, check the soup and beans for saltiness and add to taste. Also check the liquid level and add water or stock as needed.
*As you may know, leeks are nearly impossible to clean. I usually pull the leaves down one by one and rinse the sand as I go. A more thorough option would be to the chop the leek and rinse in a colander.
Happy New Year.