Small Steps.

Anniversary celebration notwithstanding, it’s been a rough couple of months here at Casa IF-NY. I mentioned awhile back that the Carnivore’s father was ill; since then, he was moved to a hospital in the Bronx, which, for those of you not familiar with this city, is quite a hike from our humble abode here in Brooklyn. Between the hours spent in transit and at the hospital, there’s been little time left over for cooking; convenient, given that neither of us have had much of an appetite. Last week, his father passed away, and to say that those issues compounded would be an understatement.

Eventually, though, sheer necessity drove me back into the kitchen. I’d exhausted both takeout options and bank account in the intervening days—even though nothing tasted quite right, we had to eat something, and neither of us had the energy for grocery shopping. Cooking was the only choice, but I needed something simple to ease back into it. Something I could make with ingredients sourced from our rather bare cupboards or the bodega across the street, and something that I knew would turn out well.

With so many untested clippings and unused cookbooks on my shelves, it’s rare for me to repeat recipes, but in this case, I went for one I’d had success with in the past: Gourmet‘s Fast White-Bean Stew. An easily customizable, easily prepared concoction of beans, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, and, if you’re carnivorously inclined, pork, this dish is healthy and hearty, but best of all—for our purposes, at least—it’s homemade. Pretty much the polar opposite of everything we’d been eating up to that point.

It’s a baby step back toward normalcy, but at this point, we’ll take what we can get.

Fast White-Bean Stew
From Gourmet | January 2007

I’ve made this twice, each version with different modifications. This time, I used most of a box (more than the 15 ounces called for, I think) of chopped tomatoes instead of stewed, vegetable broth instead of chicken, small white beans instead of cannellini, and leftover roast pork instead of baked ham, with a dash or two of kosher salt to compensate for the less-salty meat. The first time, I added oregano and rosemary and used sausage instead of ham. (I skipped the baguette toasts both times, but only because I didn’t want to make a separate trip to the store.) Both were great.

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
1 (1/2-pound) piece baked ham (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-ounce) bag baby romaine or baby arugula (10 cups loosely packed)
8 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette

1. Cook garlic in 1/4 cup oil in a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Coarsely cut up tomatoes in can with kitchen shears, then add (with juice) to garlic in oil. Stir in broth, beans, ham, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in greens and cook until wilted, 3 minutes for romaine or 1 minute for arugula.

2. While stew is simmering, preheat broiler. Put bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

3. Serve stew with toasts.

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