HELLO MY FOODIE FRIENDS!

With the arrival of spring time comes a burst of childhood memories. Spring is also a time when we celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day. Each holiday reminds me of the “simple” things that I took for granted when my parents were in my life. Spring was a time when my father would have me paint fences, help him in cleaning up the lawn from the winter, and playing ball in the yard. Many of my childhood memories also include my fussiness in eating what my mother was making for dinner. She would often times explain why she was making a particular meal choice. Making five children and a husband happy and all agreeing on the meal choice would often end with her stating; “It’s because I am the mother and I said so, that is why!” Part of our meal preparation included the insistence that all five Reardon children were to wash our face and hands before dinner. My father would tag team with my mother instructing us to race to the sink. My mother’s meal creations were always delicious. During dinner there wasn’t a lot of conversation but my father would look at my mother with a very tired smile and say “you are the best.” These memories remind me of the importance of sitting down and having that meal together every night.

Have you ever walked into a place and smelled your favorite memories? Smells of cooking can trigger memories so strong and real it feels like you’ve been transported back in time and brings a picture as sharp as a photograph of a special time in your life. Through food we exchange stories of ourselves and our families. Spices were an important part of my mother’s cooking. My memories bring me back to a time when our Sunday dinners were a time of gathering around a table crowded with all of the mothers, aunts and grandmothers as they presented their cooking and discussed the ingredients and spices they used.

Spices have a way of transporting you to another place and time. Whether it’s memories of smelling basil or mint from the garden for the first time, or the favorite dishes that you remember cooking with them. Each spice or collection of spices has a story, and a wonderful, beautiful one at that. Spices are flavor enhancers. That might seem rather simplistic, but it really sums up how to think about spices and get the best from them. Rather than seeing these strange little bits of bark, seeds and roots as something to be used only on special occasions, or just when a recipe calls for them, look at your spice shelf as flavor enhancers to be added to your cooking (or even drinks) in small quantities at any time. You can add pretty much any spice you like to anything you cook - you’ll soon find there are NO RULES to making something taste delicious – the only way to really understand it is through trial and error.

Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store. We carry an assortment of spices to add flavors you have yet to t ry. Meal time is family time. Look at each other, listen to each other, tell stories, and talk about life. Remember my Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen."

TAKE CARE, JOHN AND PAULA


WHITE BEAN
AND SPRING
VEGETABLE STEW

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. dried white beans (or Lima beans), soaked overnight and drained

1 onion, trimmed, peeled, halved through core

3 ribs celery, trimmed, halved

1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms (about 10 large caps)

8 sprigs parsley, plus . cup parsley leaves with tender stems

1 head of garlic, halved, plus 1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more

3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, divided

3/4 cup mint leaves

1 bunch radishes

1 bunch medium-size asparagus (about 1 lb.)

1 - 10-oz. bag frozen peas, thawed

8 thick slices country or sourdough bread

1 - 4" piece fresh horseradish root, peeled

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Combine beans, onion, celery, mushrooms, parsley sprigs, halved head of garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, 3 Tbsp. oil, and 2 qt. water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and transfer to oven. Bake until beans are fully cooked, tender, and creamy through and through but as intact as humanly possible, about 1 hour, depending on the type, brand, and age of beans; start checking every 10 minutes after the first 45 minutes. (When checking beans for doneness, stir gently and taste at least 3 beans—it isn’t finished until they’re all tender!)

2. Using tongs, fish out aromatics and discard. Season with salt. Be generous! Under-seasoned beans are barely worth eating. Let sit on stove top, uncovered, until ready to serve.

3. While beans are cooking, make your pistou and prep the vegetables and garnishes. Using your sharpest knife, finely chop mint and ¾ cup parsley leaves. (A dull knife will just mash your herbs and cause them to turn dark around the edges.) Transfer to a small bowl. Add ¾ cup oil, grated garlic, and 1 tsp. salt and stir to combine; set pistou aside.

4. Trim and wash radishes, then slice as thinly as possible into coins (a mandoline really helps here). Transfer radishes to a small bowl, cover with cold water, and chill until ready to use.

5. Wash asparagus and trim woody stems by bending each spear near the cut end until you find the place where it wants to break naturally. Cut off tips, then cut each tip in half lengthwise. Slice now-tipless stalks crosswise into thin coins. Toss asparagus coins and tips and peas in a medium bowl; set aside.

6. When you’re almost ready to serve the stew, return beans to a gentle simmer over medium heat, taking care not to stir too much—you don’t want to bust up those beans!

7. Generously drizzle oil into a large cast-iron skillet and heat over medium until shimmering. Working in two batches, fry bread slices until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Season with salt and transfer to a plate. (You may have to add more oil between batches, as the bread will soak some of it up.)

8. When beans are simmering, add reserved asparagus and peas and cook, stirring gently, until asparagus coins are barely cooked but still bright green and crunchy, about 2 minutes.

9. Drain reserved radishes. Place horseradish root on a plate with a Microplane (the way you’d serve Parmesan). Bring Dutch oven full of stew directly to the table. Serve with fried bread, pistou, radishes, lemon wedges, and horseradish alongside.

Spices
Spices
Spices
White Bean and Spring Vegetable Stew

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