Stick to the champange that's what I like to say whenever I have an opportunity. I trotted over to Restaurant 121 last night to visit with Jennifer and drink champange. It was Friday, which was a bit of a bummer because few things can deter me from consuming the brisket sandwich there, slathered with a bewitching black pepper sauce made by some devilish person who has studied and handily mastered his relationship with his smoker, but meat on a Lenten Friday is one of those things. So, I turned to meatless options, still smiling at the thought of that gorgeous sandwich. The chef could throw that food in the street and I would still eat it, it's that good. I hope I meet him someday, this smoky smoker man, but in the meantime, I have to settle for the rollercoaster of a relationship I have developed with the middle men: 121.
A meatless Friday meant I had to get all mixed up with things with which I would otherwise not tangle. A peek at the menu is usually pointless, nothing much really ever changes because there would be riots in North Salem, but there was a curious change, again. This matter goes back a ways, to when the Duck and Roquefort Beignet first appeared on the menu. I had to scrape my chin up from the floor, I said to Becca, "It's a duck doughnut?" Becca ordered this confusing appetizer only to be met with, a duck and blue cheese doughnut. Which she loved. I tried it, I am still trying to understand it, and now, poof!, it's gone. And it was replaced by porcini and parm fritters (which I also tried and were a great until my teeth made contact with the coating which was far too heavy, and seemed, like a doughnut). I am more confused now than ever. And I feel used, and trifled with.
But it snowed and I am feeling forgiving after watching my dogs frolic in the new white puffy stuff. And because I am no fickle giver and taker-away'er I am going to make you some soup. It will make you feel toasty, so doff your comfiest get-up and pull up a Barker lounger because you and I are done for today. We'll just sit here and have some soup and wonder... about duck doughnuts and other things about this mystifying world...
North Salem, May, 2007
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 lb pancetta (or bacon, if you must)
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can of whole tomatoes
2 cups of washed, clean kale, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups white beans
A handful of herbs (some basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, maybe...)
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
a piece of parmesan rind (cut it off your cheese, or if you are near Whole Foods, they sell just the rinds)
Heat the oil over s medium burner in a great pot. Toss in the pancetta and cook until it curls a bit around the edges, then add the onion, carrots, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add the tomato paste and stir until evenly incorporated. Add the tomatoes by breaking them up with your hands as you add them to the pot, big chunky pieces are fine. Add the chicken stock, kale, beans, herbs and bay, and the Parmesan. Bring to a simmer slowly.
This deserves big crusty bread. It keeps beautifully in the fridge. Enjoy!