It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog.
Freelancing can be awesome – no crushing subway commute, the ability to cook my meals three times a day, and relative quiet to work in that my uptown neighborhood gives me.
But it also means constantly scrambling for work, juggling many projects at once and sometimes a feeling of isolation. Topping it off with a body that requires more time than I sometimes feel I have to give it, and the days start to run together without relief.
I admit to being a bit stressed, bloggereaders. But still content, overall.
Because there are days like today, when work and words and food and people come together. It’s recipe swap time again, and the Burwell General Store swap was the first I joined, over a year ago now. Through it I’ve met and befriended some incredibly talented people, and joining monthly with our shared love of food has been one of my favorite things about this lil ol site.
This is this swap’s recipe:
I had been daydreaming making a condiment using this recipe as a base, but then a new book fell into my hands, Chef Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food. It comes out next week, and I was to review it for one client and interview Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY. The review fell through today, contributing to the slight melancholia. But I’m particularly psyched about interviewing Chef Mullen tomorrow because his beautiful book on primarily Spanish cuisine is based around the foods he, as someone living with rheumatoid arthritis, tries to incorporate into his diet as much as possible for optimum health.
I’m getting tested for RA soon, because while many things about my health are right back on track, I’m still losing cartilage in my joints and my white blood cell count is usually a bit higher than average. I’m not too concerned by what the diagnosis or lack of diagnosis will mean – I regulate what’s going on in my body rather tightly and am generally feeling in a good space. But I don’t want my knees and back to keep disintegrating, and want to continue to use my food as medicine. So the timing of this book in my life was, well, sweet.
I’m also generally trying to cut back on the pastry a tad, because I’m still very hypoglycemic and need to keep that in check. So, in continuing my desire for more balance in my life, I wanted to shy away from adding that much sugar to something savory.
The compromise for this swap was to use a tomato reduction as the base / condiment to something nourishing and fortifying, using some of what I’ve been reading in Hero Food as inspiration and the swap recipe as the core. The result is a dish that’s incredibly dynamic in flavor, emotionally comforting, and packed with little heroes to keep body and mind strong.
I highly recommend this recipe, both the sofrito to have on hand as a base for a braise or soup, and this soup in its entirety. And I recommend grabbing Chef Mullen’s book as soon as it comes out on the 24th: it’s not written like a “health book”. It’s an incredible collection of techniques and recipes from a seasoned chef that also happens to also fill you in on the health benefits of the heroic foods included. My interview with him will be up on Serious Eats NY that day.
And I recommend checking out the recipes from my fellow swappers by clicking on the little blue frog below. Knowing that there are such beautiful people out there is quite fortifying too.
- Happy swapping, Jacqueline xoxo
Sofrito Bean Soup
Sofrito is an incredibly rich reduction of onions, tomato, bell peppers and garlic, simmered to bring out the vegetables’ dynamic sweetness. You can make up a batch as a basis for soups, stocks, risottos… endless possibilities. I didn’t have as many onions on hand as is usual, but I wanted my base to be more focused on the tomato anyway, in keeping up with the spirit of the swap. Whip up a batch for the soup recipe, or just to freeze in small batches for added flavor to an abundant variety of dishes.
The more time the flavors have to meld with this soup, the better. Let it sit overnight when possible.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 large onions, finely chopped (I used 3 Vidalia and one Spanish yellow)
- 4 vine tomatoes, grated into a pulp (basically cut the tomatoes width-wise in half, then use a box grater to puree the pulp out of them, leaving the skins aside)
- 1 head of garlic, roasted (I chop the bottom of the bulb off, then lay it cut side down in a ramekin of about 1 tbsp olive oil, then let it cook in the oven as I’m roasting vegetables or baking or something. It packs ridiculous flavor into recipes and I generally like to have it on hand. If you don’t, then just finely mince about 6-8 cloves of garlic)
- 2 large bell peppers, finely chopped (I used one red and one orange)
- a glug of white wine vinegar (about 2 Tbsp, red wine or cider would work too)
- salt to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes or preferred chili pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Bring the oil up to temperature and add the onions, sauteing gently until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the onion, grated tomato pulp, garlic and pepper, and cook on medium heat partially covered for at least two hours. During that time, stir occasionally and add salt, pepper and chili / red pepper flakes as desired. When ready to use, stir in tomato paste and cook for 20 minutes more. Freeze in batches or use in the Sofrito Bean Soup, below.
Sofrito Bean Soup
I love using a pressure cooker for how much flavor get seeped into things like beans. I got mine at a Portuguese cooking supply store, but they’re pretty easy to find and wonderfully inexpensive. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, combine the ingredients in the same order below, just simmer on the stove until tender.
- 2 cups dried lima beans, soaked very well for at least 24 hours and rinsed
- 2 cups chicken or clear vegetable stock
- 1 small Abruzzese sausage or chorico (about 4oz), sliced into thin rounds
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 cup sofrito
- 1 handful greens (kale, mustard, or even a salad green like arugula)
- Olive oil and red pepper flakes to taste
In a pressure cooker combine beans, stock, 1/2 of the sliced sausage and garlic cloves. Fit lid, and heat on high until it whistles. Lower to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes. Reduce pressure (either by releasing the steam valve or letting it come down naturally) and check on the beans; there should still be a little liquid left, but the beans should be incredibly soft. If they’re not, bring back up to heat and have another go for 10 or so minutes.
When soft and creamy, stir in the sofrito, combining gently. The beans should break down a bit and thicken the soup. Set the heat onto a simmer, and stir in the remaining sausage and greens, cooking for a few minutes just until they wilt.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of crushed red pepper.