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Comfort Food Needed

I don’t know about y’all, but I'm in need of some comfort food.

So after my early walk along the water and visiting the rapscallion denizens of dog beach I came home, donned my red apron with big pockets, and commenced preparing my sweet-potato-and-bean soup.

Yesterday, as news hysteria mounted, I’d placed the dried beans in a large pot for overnight soaking, correctly predicting the need for something comforting today.

I don’t wear the apron to cover my clothing. I’ve been wearing rags since Covid began, with no need to impress anyone with my attire except for the occasional spider that drops by unannounced. No, I wear it because it has two delightfully large front pockets and even a little pocket above one of the big ones.

I guess the little pocket is for phones, but my flip phone stays safely ensconced in a small basket in the kitchen. Sometimes I forget to charge it and sometimes I forget to see if I’ve had any calls, since I keep the thing on vibrate.

(Does anyone else jump out of their skin each time the phone rings?)

But that's OK. My friends know that I have never been good with phones and forgive me, as good friends always do. And I am reachable almost immediately by e-mails should a critical issue arise.

Pause…where was I going with all this?

OH! Right.

The pockets of my apron are wonderful. In one pocket I have my tiny iPod with hundreds of songs/albums on it. The other pocket holds my glasses should I need them for careful slicing of veggies.

I HAD kept my iPod in the tiny pocket, but it fell out one time when I bent over, and it was only by the grace of mercy it was attached to my headphones which were on my head, and prevented it from crashing to the floor.

I dearly enjoy listening to music when I’m cooking, and even though I have a petite set of speakers also in the kitchen that I could plug my iPod into, I am a good neighbour. When windows are open, I wear headphones.

Although this is a single dwelling, several neighbours live in remarkably close proximity. I’m sure if I sneezed in my kitchen, the neighbours surrounding me would hear it in theirs. The reason I know this is because I hear their sneezes.

SO. I rock out in silent bliss to Frankie, or Hoagy, or Coldplay, or even classical, as I chop and slice my way through the preparation.

I’m currently VERY much enjoying a recently purchased album: “The Greatest Showman”. I know the words to each song and sing softly along. When “From Now On” comes on my feet take wings and I must dance throughout the house, leaping and spinning in sheer delight.

Embarrassed pause… 😳

I digress.

So I rinsed the beans and assembled all of my ingredients. Now comes the recipe. I’m sure all of you have that familiar recipe that you don’t even have to measure anymore, so I’ll try to be exact. As for portions, I'm just one, but I make a large batch that makes about 6-7 good-sized bowls.

INGREDIENTS: Feel free to substitute, subtract or add your own.

· 1/3 cup dried beans, rinsed and soaked overnight. Cooked on stovetop in covered pan of water for one hour the next morning. Drain and put aside. (I use red lima, or pinto, or red fava. The fava are a bit crunchy texture even after soaking them all night, and cooking them for an hour the next morning, but are particularly good, nonetheless)

· Chopped mushrooms (about 5 large ones)

· Chopped parsley (about ½ loosely packed cup)

· Chopped fresh dill (YUMMIE!)

· 1 leek, sliced and cleansed to remove soil from inner parts. NOTHING worse than crunching on a stray grain of soil. Someday I’m going to chip a tooth doing that.

· 1-2 carrots, sliced

· ½-1 green zucchini, chopped

· ½-1 yellow zucchini, chopped

· 1 red bell pepper, chopped

· 1 thin sweet potato, sliced and chopped

· ¼ eggplant sliced and chopped. Incidentally, I quit doing eggplant as they are very large and heavy. I only have my bicycle basket for groceries, and if I get an eggplant, it limits what else I can get at the same time. AND they go bad so quickly. 🤨

· 3 large tomatoes. It's really nice to invest in the best you can get because they make a heavenly broth. Some shops carry those heirlooms and they are very expensive, but like I said, worth the splurge.

OK, I think that’s it. You can add whatever else you want.

NOW, before you add everything (EXCEPT for the tomatoes) into a large pan, FIRST put in my secret potion.

All cooks have a secret potion, and I will share mine with you. 😊

Secret Potion Backstory:

When I lived in Okinawa there was a tiny, rickety, upstairs curry place along the sea wall that sold mouth-watering curry. I think the buffet was about 600 yen ($6-7), and this included 3-4 different kinds of curry, white rice, salad, french-fries and a soft drink or tea. AND fresh Naan bread.

This was a FANTASTIC place to go for dinner after a gruelling day of grading papers, emailing parents, and planning the next week’s lessons and you just could NOT face cooking Sunday dinner.

Anyway, they had this homemade salad dressing and because I cannot use most store salad dressings ‘cause of the sugar, I was very interested in how they concocted theirs. I finally got it down to soy sauce, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar and sesame oil.

After experimenting with portions, I produced an absolutely delightful mixture and use it for EVERYTHING. I marinate meat in it, I use it for sautéing veggies, broths, a soup base, and of course, salad dressing. And here it is for you!

Kenzie’s Secret Potion:

· ½ cup soy sauce (try to get the reduced salt kind)

· 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

· 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

· Just a little sesame oil—maybe a teaspoon, or just a bit more?

Put all of this into a small bottle and shake up. I ALWAYS have a batch in my fridge ready for just about anything.

So now you are ready to make soup.

Put these following ingredients into the pan first:

· 2 Tablespoons of Kenzie's secret potion

· 2 HEAPING Tablespoons of salsa (I use Herdez Salsa Casera, medium)

· 1 Tablespoon olive oil

· 1 heaping Tablespoon mustard (I like the Dijon stoneground.)

Stir the liquid all around to break up the clump of mustard.

Place pan on burner and turn it on medium to high heat (I have gas) Then add all of your veggies and beans. When I am chopping and slicing I try to do it so all the soft, fragile veggies will be on top when I dump everything into the pan.

Stir until all veggies are coated with the liquid mixtures and softened.

Now comes the seasoning. I have no idea what the measurements are, but not a lot of anything. Shake and grind the following spices:

chili powder







Now you’re all set!!! Add six cups of water, put a lid on it, bring to boil and then bring down to low heat simmer, and cook for one hour. Your house will begin to smell very good. In pre-Covid days, neighbours would drop by to see how I was doing, and investigate the aroma wafting from my windows.

While the soup is cooking, chop those three luscious tomatoes up and sprinkle more salt/pepper on them, and also cumin. Let sit. After one hour, add tomatoes to the soup and cook for ½ hour more. Then you are done.

Serve with a tasty green salad, or hot bread and butter, or what the heck, both. The soup only gets better as the days go by. (I don't freeze it). It usually last me 5-6 days.

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