Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Any time or weather-- soup and sandwich go together..."*

peas and carrots with tarragon butter

Following the tail of last month's "open love" presentation comes this month's pst discussion on "The New Monogamy" wherein author and PhD Sexologist Tammy Nelson spoke of our desires to couple with a "perfect soul-mate" and our subsequent struggles to stay faithful over time. "50% of marriages fail," she says- and yet a great percentage of divorcees go on to second and third marriages. Our instinct for coupling prevails, so Tammy proposed new ways to define fidelity, keep desire and attraction fresh, and to open dialogue within a relationship.

Easy enough to make a menu of classic food pairings including fish-n-chips, peas-n-carrots and milk-n-cookies. A nice slam bam thank you ma'am, in-n-out kinda concept- though a bit of conceptual moralizing came with picking the final menu.  Salsa and chips was an early contender  but are the chips just a vehicle for the salsa? Is salsa complete on its own or is it just a flavor enhancer for something else? This dilemma was not true for the bread-n-butter I served instead. With bread and butter each element is delicious on its own- and while we shouldn't eat pure butter, in our hearts (and to our hearts detriment) we all want too!  Mac-n-cheese was scratched because as the ingredients merge their individuality gets lost. Arroz con Pollo seemed a strong candidate, especially because there are so many variations, but in the end the complexity of the seasonings including saffron in Spain, tomatoes and peppers in Latin America, and annatto in the Caribbean relied on third party ingredients. 

For the hell of it I posted on facebook asking for suggestions and there were a few stand-outs: chocolate and roasted beets, steak and arugula, and one insistent suggestion to include "sublime" solo foods like a French double creme cheese or perfectly ripe berries...  couples be damned. 

Along with the other pairings I made rice and beans for the vegetarians and the beans were quite yummy:

1# beans (I used Jacob's Cattle but black beans or another kidney bean varietal would be good too.) Soak overnight in enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two. Drain, rinse, then put in a pot and cover beans with fresh water.

Add a large handful of diced onion and a small handful of chopped garlic and minced cilantro stems.  Gently simmer until the beans are tender, adding water as necessary. Timing will vary based on how fresh the beans are but count on at least an hour of minimal pot watching. 

Take 1-2 cups of the cooked beans and some of the cooking broth and blend to a fine puree, then stir this back into the pot. Taste for seasoning-- add salt and pepper and a glug of fruity olive oil. Serve with rice. 

*the title of this post comes from a Campbell's soup ad from the 1960's that used the melody of "Love and Marriage," a song Frank Sinatra made famous in 1955.


  1. I don't remember if I sent you the link to the choco-beets. Just in case, here it is:

    As I was reading, I realized I have never had bread and butter, but only bread, butter and a third ingredient, be it jam, sugar or anchovies.

    1. wow- thanks so much for the beet and chocolate link. What a unique inventive recipe-- it makes perfect sense because roasted beets are like candy. I can't wait to try it. Wonder how golden beets dipped in white chocolate might be.

      As for bread and butter- it seems unfathomable you haven't had it... is it because in Italy you dip bread in olive oil? You have a treat coming your way... just plain cold butter and bread! I prefer unsalted butter but then sometimes sprinkle on a tiny bit of sea salt. Its a guilty pleasure 'cause I try to watch how much fat and cholesterol I eat.

    2. I am afraid I must disappoint you: we don't dip bread in olive oil. There is one appetizer which involves dipping in olive oil and it is called pinzimonio: you are served a plate of raw vegetables and a small bowl of olive oil and lemon juice, plus a bowl of water to clean your fingertips. I grew up in olive oil country and butter was not routinely used for cooking. When we had it on bread, there was always jam on top. The other way we used it is in dressing pasta: burro e parmigiano.

    3. So that ubiquitous bread and olive oil served in American Italian restaurants is an American conceit? Is bread a typical part of a the Italian meal? I'm not sure how the expectation of a bread basket served at the beginning of a restaurant meal came about in the U.S. but its pretty entrenched-- though not so in domestic kitchens. In my kitchen we use bread at breakfast and for sandwiches at lunch. Often I make crostini with leftover bread and use them for appetizers or with cheese before dinner. The only time I serve bread with dinner is with pasta- which in my household is an uncommon supper... garlic bread, pesto noodles and salad. A seasonal treat happening now is matzoh with butter and salt. Its a snack though- not a replacement for bread because we're not particularly observant Jews.