I’ve finally bitten the bullet and asked my mother to cook with me for the blog. It’s not that she’s not a good cook. To the contrary, she’s an excellent cook. It’s just that it’s my mother and I wasn’t sure I wanted to boss her around in my kitchen and tell her how to cook and where to stand and how to measure … I jest to amuse myself. Those reasons were exactly what got me moving.
Sixty picture later, I’ve just given up. It’s simply not a pretty dish. You’ll need to take my word that it’s delicious. Earthy lentils, bitter (in a good way) onions, and lots of black pepper combine to make one of my all-time favorite bean dishes. It’s hearty and filling. It’s even vegan if that’s your thing. It’s a comfort dish that transports me to Aunt Myra’s kitchen and some warm happy memories. She is a terrific cook and introduced my childhood to mint in green salads (that one took me a while to get used to), Syrian meatloaf, and this wonderful lentil dish. Later in life she introduced me to jug wine but that’s a story for another time.
In the same way that peanut butter and rubber tires were great inventions born of ill-conceived projects, this soup arrived by way of a fortuitously painful batch of jalapeno beer.
The first Christmas that we spent as a family in our new home outside of Richmond, VA, Stephanie – after shopping and shopping … and a bit more shopping – came up with the perfect gift for Ryan: Mr. Beer, a kit for the novice beer home brewer. After stinking up the house with a lager brew session followed by a chocolate stout, Ryan branched out, one might say way out, with a jalapeno beer. His “recipe” consisted of making one of the kit beers and throwing in “a few jalapenos” for flavor.
Growing up, Christmas Eve was a crazy day. Much like a regiment on the move, we were put through the paces: Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning… followed by more cleaning! Then just when you were convinced all the work had surely squared things with Santa, it would all just stop. Magic! The late afternoon saw showers for all, a single gift opened which was generally a new outfit for church, the now infamous potato soup dinner, and then off to Christmas Mass. Returning home, we’d get in our pajamas, hang our stockings and be sent looking for sugarplums for the night.
The most delicious soul-warming combination of beans, pasta and tomatoes in a simple but rich Parmesan, pepper-flecked broth.
This dish is the reason that I started this blog. If I think of Nonnie in the kitchen, it generally involves her making pasta fazool and me being shooed away from the pot. “Elizabeth! Go. Out. Side!” To be sure, I know this is correctly referred to as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) but we have never called it that and I see no reason to start now. Plus, I don’t think most of the family would know what I was talking about if it I called it Nonnie’s pasta e fagioli.