1. Over the holidays, Steve built a tray that enables us to use our over-sized ottoman as a table of sorts. The sides are made from scraps of Black Walnut that came from a tree J. gave us. (The bulk of the tree is destined to become a table.) The bottom is from a scrap of thin, painted plywood.
2. Her teacher encouraged her to submit a photograph in the contest and it was granted first prize. It's a default win because no one else submitted an entry in the photography division.(?!) Still, it's a beautiful photograph and she's excited because it comes with a "cash prize". Kids...
3. I cooked one of my favorite winter soups, Pasta Fagioli. In our household, it's pronounced pastafazool. It's hearty peasant food at its best! Be warned, this recipe makes a lot. Don't forget some nice crusty bread on the side.
Pasta E Fagioli
3 Tbl. olive oil
3 to 4 oz. pancetta, chopped (you get this at the deli)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 c (about 14 oz.) dried cranberry, borlotti, cannelloni or other small white beans, soaked
overnight in water to cover, drained and rinsed
*I use 2 cans of canned cannelloni
1 ½ c. diced canned plum tomatoes with juices
8 c. water or chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
½ pound small shells, ditalini or other small pasta shape (2 cups dry)
extra virgin olive oil for serving
grated Parmesan for serving
In a large soup kettle, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it renders its fat and is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the soaked beans (or canned), the tomatoes with juices, 8 cups broth and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
To give the soup more body, remove 2 or 3 large spoonfuls of beans and vegetables, place in a blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to pot. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta separately, drain and add to the soup. Simmer about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan and a liberal dusting of black pepper. Serve at once.