Four-Inch Beet, Five-Inch Pumpkin, and Beans

Nearly the same size, the beet and the pumpkin (last of their kind from the winter CSA) sit on the kitchen island, along with different sizes of white beans, soaking.

They seemed an unlikely group of foodstuffs for Sunday dinner, until I happened upon “The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook” by Jack Bishop. Another Bishop book (“Vegetables Every Day”) is a frequent resource when uncertainly facing a vegetable, without method in mind.

But this book’s been neglected simply because it tips the wrong way on the bookshelf over the fridge. A tall book, I don’t notice its name or inviting cover photo. It’s been a while, because stuck in the pages is the newsletter from the Alaska CSA. Looking for something to do with the white beans, I pulled on its edge.

Ah, good move. The book, with pages of bean possibilities, came from my old friend. Though I live closer to her now, it’s still too far for that daily back and forth that nourishes friendships.

Over the years my friend and I made a lot of food together. In our own kitchens, each cooking our family’s dinner, phone tucked between shoulder and ear – and over campfires and tiny cooking stoves on shared family adventures. And we’ve exchanged cookbooks. Recipe books, gifts from her, include inscriptions in the front or on the pages of favorite recipes. This one notes that the best vegetables she ever ate were in Italy.

Cooks often make notes in books, enriching a gift book or recording an impression. Another friend and her husband note when a recipe was cooked and for whom. For a while, I commented on a series of earnest vegetarian soups like bean and barley, with equally earnest notes like “Cooked 1/15, very good!” (Later the cookbook, left open in one of those plastic holders, got a yellow sticky note from the amused house sitter: “Hot dogs and tater tots cooked by Doug 2/28.”)

Maybe cookbooks, like novels, you approach depending on where you are in life. You can outgrow them (those soups relied on some readymade spice mix) or reconnect happily with them (Bishop’s Italian vegetables). I enjoyed the memories, and appreciate the potential for more meals. Inspired, I aimed for “Cannellini Beans with Tomatoes, Sage and Garlic” for Sunday dinner.

But wanting to watch a movie, we just ate the beans simmered with onions, roasted the beets (in spite of the lackluster outside, red swirls enlivened the inside), and managed a batch of muffins from the tiny pumpkin’s yield. All very good!

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