A Providence, Rhode Island style Thanksgiving. Afterwards, a Passato of Vegetables with Chard.
My son, daughter-in-law, and I, spent an extended Thanksgiving holiday with my brother and his family in Providence, Rhode Island. It was the coldest Thanksgiving in years, down to 17 degrees on the actual turkey day. I spent my visit wearing many layers of clothing, starting with long underwear. My silk undergarments from Hanros, transforms long underwear from making one feel like a miner during the California gold rush, into something more feminine given its soft feel and lace trim. Next layer was a long sleeve t-shirt, followed by a button down sweater, and topped with a boxy largish wool sweater. When we took one of our walks to get some exercise, all layers were necessary and finished with a down jacket, hat, mittens and scarf.
At times the layers were systematically removed, as when we were at the movies (I highly recommend "Greenbook'" starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali), went out to eat the day after (get a reservation for Al Forno if you visit Providence), or while strolling through the Saturday indoor farmers' market. At the farmer's market, I placed my things down on an empty spot of a produce table next to a plastic bag of fresh rosemary, and peeled off layers as the farmer watched with a bemused but sympathetic look upon his face.
If you are ever in Providence, Rhode Island, I highly recommend taking in the farmers' market in Pawtucket. In the winter the market takes place in what used to be an old brick factory building. The building has now been repurposed into a community center. It is loaded with businesses running in various offices, crafts being sold out of other spaces, and classes in yoga, music or dancing. There is a large and stylish pizza restaurant as well.
On farmers' market days, prepared food is offered from various vendor tables. One sees visitors carrying paper bowls of chili, Portugese stews, and empanadas. Or they munch on baked goods, and breads, and sip cups of coffee, or kombucha juice combinations, while walking about the market. Outside there are food trucks as well, including one with a black barrel shaped barbeque cooker, as you would see in Texas, serving pulled port sandwiches from their window. I am partial to the truck serving different bratwursts with a variety of toppings.
My favorite activity and that of my family this holiday, was interacting with my grand-nephew Toby, who is all of six months old. Toby is a happy baby, who is able to sit up by himself, roll over, and do a mean cobra and up-dog on his forearms when on his belly on the floor. Toby loves imitating and responding to laughter, and is thrilled when the family sings the itsy bitsy spider.
This past weekend, baby Tobias went from scratching the piano keys (one of his ways of exploring besides putting everything in his mouth), to actually banging down on the piano keys using his whole arm and hand to produce some music. He also thrilled us, when he started scootching backwards a bit (the first step to learning to crawl), and pivoting his body around in half circles using his arms. Toby loves exploring everything around him, and he is a delight to hold, play with, and observe. He is just starting to eat solids and is an enthusiastic lover of food. Arms out while eating food spooned into his mouth, he looks like a little baby bird. Sitting in his high chair, Toby fit right in at our Thanksgiving table, enjoying a string bean smoothie especially made for him by his mom's sweet sister, one of my nieces.
Our Thanksgiving meal was actually quite healthy, thanks to the good cooking of my sister-in-law, who always cooks a lot of vegetable dishes in a low-fat way. We had slices of purple sweet potatoes, squash and parsnips, simply roasted with some olive oil. An eggplant stew with chickpeas was made for the vegetarian at our table, and the rest of us non-vegetarians enjoyed this dish as well. The carved turkey was bathed in the juices from the roasting pan. Potatoes and green beans were prepared in the style of the cuisine of India, using recipes from one of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks. The next day, my son made a turkey broth out of the carcass, and we sipped the nourishing restorative broth for the rest of the weekend.
For dessert there were three pies. The best was the apple pie, juicy, with a flakey, delicate crust. It must have been prepared with a lot of butter, that was not too finely cut, but sheeted within the dough. The other two were pumpkin and cranberry. As to this pie litany, I neglected to tell you that we kicked off Thanksgiving on Wednesday night, by eating a pumpkin pie that was meant for the feast day. It was quickly replaced when one of my nieces purchased another, at Providence's famous Seven Stars Bakery.
And, oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you about the basil strawberry ice cream that my brother whipped up for Thanksgiving dinner dessert. He tried out a Cuisinart ice cream maker given to his family as a gift some years ago, and which he had never yet used. Previously, he made ice-cream using an older and less quiet machine. This quieter more efficient model was the dream machine of ice-cream makers.
I should get him to give us his recipe for Cooking the Kitchen, as the basil infused strawberry ice cream was a real treat. It was special for being off the beaten path of Thanksgiving day recipes. There were no left-overs of the basil strawberry ice-cream. But, the next day, on Friday morning, breakfast began with breaking out the pie left-overs and going from there.
Back home and time to challenge myself with a new recipe, Passato of Vegetables with Chard.
So, now that it is Sunday, and I am back home, it is time to get back to eating more mindfully, including portion control, healthy recipes, and no more three slices of pie for dessert (granted they were small slices), or pie for breakfast. Before my trip to Providence for the holiday, I picked out a soup recipe I had never made before, called "Passato of Vegetables with Chard," from the "Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen," by Deborah Madison. I had also purchased all the ingredients last Tuesday. So I was ready to cook up a storm this morning.
The mixture of vegetables in a Passato of Vegetables with Chard "results in a dark green soup with a shimmer of red-orange from the carrot and tomato."[/caption]
Do not be intimidated any the word "Passato." Madison based this recipe upon one by another cookbook author, Giuliano Bugialli. As Madison describes it, "Passato" has to do with the method of "cooking the vegetables slowly in their own juices, adding liquid only as needed to transform them into soup.... This mixture results in a dark green soup with a shimmer of red-orange from the carrot and tomato."
I hope you will try this recipe, when, as for me, it is time to get back to your own lives, and follow a healthier diet again. Enjoy!
Passato of Vegetables with Chard
My photos do not show this, but Deborah Madison recommends finishing the soup with bread cubes crisped in a little olive oil and topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. I urge you to salt to taste as directed, and do not skip adding lemon juice which brightens the soup's flavor considerably.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red or yellow onion, finely dices
- 1 carrot, slices
- 2 celery ribs, peeled if stringy, chopped
- 1 small potato, peeled and diced
- 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or ½ cup diced canned tomato
- 8 chard leaves, stems removed, the rest roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- fresh lemon juice to taste
- 1 cup small bread cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, for shaving
Warm the oil in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the vegetables, season with ¾ teaspoon salt, then cover the pot and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, during which the vegetables will produce quite a bit of delicious juice. While they are cooking, bring 1 quart water to a boil.
Carefully puree the cooked vegetables with the hot water, beginning with a small amount and adding more, up to 3 or 4 cups, depending on the thickness you want. Leave a little texture or make the soup smooth, as you wish. Return it to the heat, taste for salt, and season with pepper. Add lemon juice to sharpen the flavors.
Crisp the bread cubes in a little olive oil over medium-low heat (or in the oven) until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil, and add the croutons. Shave the cheese over the top and serve.