Sorry, all evidence of today's recipe has been consumed.
Oh readers. If only you knew the lists and lists of things I have waiting to write about. It's overwhelming. One of the things about which I have been waiting to write is a lesson, or series of lessons, on how to stock one's pantry and freezer, if possible. Of course, this lesson is of particular importance going into the winter months, and not out of them, as we are now, but it's also important so that you can begin to plan for next year.
It's important to stock your pantry because, well, let's face it: we aren't always eating from the produce department 100% of the time, and sometimes we are just too tired or lazy or beat down by the man to go to the grocery store or chop lots of things or what have you. This is where your pantry comes in.
Now, your pantry is mainly a place for starch-based meals, so it's kind of up to you which starch suits you best - rice, pasta, beans, or a combination thereof. In our house, there's no questions: it's pasta. Although we are fond of every starch, really.
Now that you have chosen your starch, it's time to think of things to add to it. This is where you should think about stocking things such as canned roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes, capers, curry pastes, quick-cooking legumes such a lentils, pickled veggies, etc.
If you have room in your freezer, it's also nice to have an assortment of things which can be defrosted rather quickly (or cooked from frozen) and added to things from your pantry. I like to have lots of stock, veggies - especially peas and corn, which can be added to practically anything - sausages, and ground meats (veal, turkey, etc). If you have a vacuum sealer, you can save money by doing what I do - buying giant packages of ground meat, already rolled into 8 ounce balls, or 30 Italian sausages at a time, and dividing them into smaller amounts for freezing. Perhaps we'll go into that in greater depth sometime.
Once you begin to see how a well-stocked pantry can take a lot of the thinking out of meal planning, you'll begin to see what you and those you feed are fond of, and you can begin to work from your pantry and have your own variations on themes.
Today's recipe uses only one really perishable ingredient, kale, and one semi-perishable one, Parmesan. Aged Parmesan, being a very low-moisture cheese, will last forever (or at least a month or so) in the fridge, and after it's served its usefulness as a grating cheese, the rind or leftover hard bits can be used to make delicious vegetarian stock or flavor soups.
As I've said, today's recipe is a variation on a theme, but it's a favorite of ours, and it shows how you can take one basic recipe and expand it for your purposes. Also, it was the first variation in which we used our homemade chicken & pork trotter stock, and I must say, the mouth feel was great. Just goes to show what a little homemade stock will do.
Freezer & Pantry Soup, with Sausage, Beans, Kale, and Other Good Things - serves 6
1/2 pound small pasta, such as farfalle, cooked one minute shy of package directions, water reserved
3 bunches kale, rib removed, greens roughly chopped and washed
salt & pepper
3 links (or 3/4 pound bulk) sweet Italian sausage with fennel
1/2 cup white wine or additional stock
Dried Italian spice blend (or dried oregano)
red pepper flakes to taste
2 cans white beans in their liquid
1 small jar roasted red peppers, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 cups stock, preferably homemade
2 tbsp decent balsamic vinegar
freshly cracked pepper
freshly grated Parmesan
I like to have the pasta cooking while I'm making the soup, so that instead of draining it, I can move it from its boiling liquid to the soup with a spoon, getting some of the pasta water in the soup in the process.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the chopped greens in and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir with tongs while they wilt, cooking until they are just getting tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pot and reserve, being sure to include any leftover liquid. Add a little olive oil to the pot and turn the heat to just under high. Crumble the sausages into the pot, discarding the casing. Brown the sausages, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When the sausage is browned, deglaze the pan with the white wine. When the liquid has cooked off (about 2-3 minutes), sprinkle the sausage with 1 tsp Italian spices and red pepper flakes, to taste. Add the white beans with their liquid, the red peppers and the reserved greens. Stir to coat everything with the tasty sausage juices. Add the stock and the balsamic vinegar and bring everything to a simmer. When the pasta is done, add it to the soup, along with about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the soup for 5 minutes, just to be sure the flavors have melded. Taste to adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and garnish with pepper & Parmesan, to taste.