The wonder of an all too brief vacation in New York’s Hudson River Valley left me totally unwilling to step out of a lovely American time warp in a place where all the writers were romantics and so were the landscapes they created.
It took St. Clare’s iconic face shining out of this month’s religious calendar from St. Dominic Parish, Brick, to snap me out of it. There she was, resplendent in her halo this morning, staring me down as I got ready for work. “Ok, I get it Chiara,” I told her, “it’s time to get back to business.”
For afterall, today is her feast day and she, this woman of great strength, virtue and sensitivity, has long been an example I try living up to all the while knowing it’s an unattainable goal. It seemed the right thing to do come up with a simple recipe reflecting her tastes. She and the sisters of her order refrained from all meat, so I’ve turned once again to that great Tuscan staple, cannellini beans.
I plan to whip up a bowl of this or two (brother Pete may like some) and enjoy it with a dusting of Romano cheese while watching the television in her honor for, she, who could see Holy Mass on the wall of her cell during her last illness, is the patron saint of television and for that matter, the Internet and the telephone. As it turns out, one of my favorite made for tv films — “The Reading Room” starring James Earl Jones — is on late tonight. In the movie, Jones opens a “reading room” for kids in a deprived neighborhood. It’s fine family fare.
This recipe is one of my favorites adapted from a favorite source — The Mayo Clinic Health Letter — available, where else, but on the Internet at http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com where you’ll find all manner of healthful inspiration.
Tuscan white bean stew
For the croutons: 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; 2 cloves garlic, quartered; 1/2 loaf italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
For the stew: 1 14-15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained; 4 cups of spring water; 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 bay leaf; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 yellow onion coarsely chopped; 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped; 6 cloves garlic, chopped; 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Directions: to make the croutons, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the bread cubes and saute, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Directions: to make the stew, in a soup pot over high heat, combine the beans, water, salt, bay leaf and half the broth or stock. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, then drain, reserving about a cup of liquid. With a slotted spoon, remove about half of the beans and mash them with a fork to form a paste, then put them in a large saute pan, add the olive oil and stir over medium high heat, adding the onion and carrots. Saute until the carrots are tender – about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the pepper, the chopped rosemary. Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with croutons and grated cheese and serve immediately.