Thursday, February 16, 2012

Play Date

My friend Debra and I had a Play Date today. She and I see each other at least once a week because we are in a book group together. Though that is a fun thing, it is not a Play Date. We are there to study a book with four other women, not to play. Sometimes we even see each other twice a week because we attend the same church. All that really means is that on Sunday mornings we are in close proximity to one another. There is no guarantee that we will even have the opportunity to speak to each other on Sunday mornings. This is a sad commentary on our church community; but that is a whole other story and I won’t go there right now!

During one of our Tuesday book group meetings I made reference to my blog. A day or two later I got an email from Debra saying that she had taken time to read some of my posts. Seeing that recently I have done much writing about food, she sent me a soup recipe. I replied by saying that I thought that the soup we be especially awesome with homemade bread. Debra responded by saying that she had never made bread. That made me sad. So, the planning of our play-date began. We agreed that we would spend a day together making soup and bread together.

We had planned to play in the kitchen a few weeks ago but adult life intervened and we had to postpone our adventure until today. That was not entirely a bad thing. One of the questions that we discussed in our Tuesday book-group-not-a-play-group was, “What is something that makes you eager?” The group came to the realization that as adults, eagerness is a feeling that we don’t experience much. On the contrary, we are often overcome by feelings on the other end of the eagerness continuum - apathy and dread - but it seems that eagerness, with its anticipation and excitement, mostly eludes us. By having to postpone our play-date for a couple of weeks, I realized that I was eager for today. I was eager to try a new soup recipe. I was eager to spend a day with my friend especially since we were going to experience “the first time” together. (Remember I said that she has never made bread before!)

Another first for both of us was cooking with Borlotti beans; they were an integral ingredient in the soup we made. Not only had I never cooked with these beans, I had not even heard of them. I consulted with my tried and true food professional, Brooke, and got the low down on these unfamiliar legumes. They look like this:

And are also known as Cranberry beans.

I mail ordered them because I was not sure where to find them locally. As it turns out, they are readily available in the bulk food aisle at Central Market.

Debra got to my house at 9:30. We quickly began our fun by making the bread, oatmeal bread, because we figured we could cut and chop the veggies for the soup while the bread was proofing. I had gathered all the ingredients on the kitchen counter before Debra arrived so she was able to dive right in to the process. With the necessary bread ingredients in the bowl, she began mixing by hand and then lifted the dough onto the counter for the 10 minute kneading process. A few minutes in I offered to take over but in that short time a new bread maker had been born. There is nothing like the feeling of that soft sticky dough moving between your fingers. Kneading bread has an amazing therapeutic effect!

With the bread tucked in a warm corner for its first rise, we then chopped onions and peppers. We began the soup by sautéing these veggies, adding the spices, and then some vegetable broth. Voila! We had our stock. As it simmered, we took a few moments to just talk. We conversed about more food, books, kids, church, cats, dogs, music, and probably several other things that I have overlooked.

Then it came time to add beans to the simmering broth - the Borlotti beans that I had soaked last night and cooked this morning, garbanzos from a can and some lentils. Then it was time for more simmering and punching down and shaping the bread for its second rise.

The next step in our meal preparation was to put the bread in the oven to bake and to also add some noodles to the soup. You gotta love those carbohydrates!

In final preparation for landing (in our mouths), we added spinach, cilantro and dill to the soup and we caramelized onions for a garnish. Finally, the moment we had been waiting for . . . time to take the bread from the oven! With a 180 degree turn, the perfectly browned, hollow sounding loaf released from the pan. As it sat cooling on the cutting board, it dawned on us that we should take a picture. It then dawned on me, several hours too late, that we should have been taking pictures all along.

I am a person who is truly interested more in process rather than product;yet, I neglect to document the process of what I am doing 9 times out of 10. Maybe that is because I am so involved in that process that I don’t want to interrupt its flow to take pictures. Or maybe I just don’t even think about taking pictures until it is too late. Whatever the reason, these are the only pictures I have.

So, here is the product.

The result of Debra’s “first time”.

Slathering it with homemade butter took it to the next level. And we didn’t even know there was a next level.

And then she took a knife to it!

Oh yeah, the soup . . .isn’t it beautiful!

We had a lot of fun on our Play Date. How can you go wrong with fresh bread, Borlotti beans, and a good friend?