Tuesday Dinner: Minestrone

Minestrone • Mixed Lettuces with Fennel & Citrus • Levain Rolls • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

It’s starting to sink in that we’re in this for the long haul. Here we are, with our washed-raw, chapped hands, holed up in our houses, crossing to the other side of the street if we see another human when we’re out on a neighborhood walk, and it’s going to be like for another…month? six weeks? two months?

Thank goodness that we live in California, where (so far) we can have all the fresh vegetables that we want. I’m grateful to buy from Adriana, a grandchild of farmworkers, who provides health insurance and fair wages to her employees. I’m also grateful to buy from small family farms, like Fiddler’s Green in Davis, who rely on direct sales rather than distribution to retailers. Small farmers and the thousands of farmworkers in this state are keeping us fed and healthy.

All of which is to say that there are tons of vegetables in today’s soup—carrots and fennel, cauliflower and tomatoes, and three kinds of dark, leafy greens: Tuscan kale, collards, and Swiss chard. Way better for you, and way more delicious, than a multivitamin! If I was cooking only for grownups, I would have added red chile flakes, but we want to encourage our kids to eat their vegetables, so I left them out. Instead, I’m including a container of red chile flakes in every bag (heads-up: one per family, not one per serving), so that you can all spice up your soup to your taste.

There’s more fennel in today’s salad. Cooked, in the soup, it’s mellow and sweet. Raw, in the salad, it’s bright and crunchy, with a gentle licorice-y flavor that even a black-licorice-hater like me loves. If my morning goes as planned (I’m writing this at the crack of dawn), we’ll also have oranges and grapefruit.

One of my favorite picture books—A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban—ends with chocolate cake. Frances isn’t a hundred percent thrilled with the way her life has changed after the arrival of her baby sister Gloria. She packs a bag and runs away to live under the dining room table. She overhears her parents talking about how much they miss her, so after calling them, she decides to come back. A little later, Frances goes into the kitchen to find her mother baking a chocolate cake, which of course big sisters are old enough to eat. The final words in the book are perhaps the most reassuring sentence ever written:

“Oh yes,” said Mother, “you may be sure that there will always be plenty of chocolate cake around here.”

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, we can have a moment to enjoy a bite of chocolate cake, complete with frosting and sprinkles. Stay safe, everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *